Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dialoguing the Clintons

Recently, my friend Paul posted a well-argued rejoinder to a post I wrote saying I'm "sick of Clintonites".
I think the argument is well enough taken: the Clintons have done a lot of good things for the party, and for this country. There's no need here to rehash the Clinton wars, which played out when Paul and I were lads. It will suffice to say that we should grateful to the Clintons for showing the rabid right that the center was willing to play hardball.
This is both the Clintons most and least attractive feature. Unlike most Democrats (especially most Democratic candidates for president), the Clintons are fighters, willing to hit the Rovians as hard as the Rovians hit them. Be this as it may, it doesn't erase the cynicism that they have shown this election-season.
I don't think the Clintons are perfect, or anywhere close, but I will campaign for Hillary if she is the nominee. A Clinton presidency would be far preferable to a McCain one.
On the other hand, if I am asked to choose between the sort of politics embodied by Hillary and a genuinely inspirational, progressive candidate, it's not to hard for me to choose. I also think there may be some truth to Jon Chaits contention that Obama could render a lot of this political trench-warfare obsolete.
I doubt that Paul and myself differ to greatly on how we feel about the content of Bill Clinton's foreign policy, both finding it pretty lackluster (a high recommended read on the subject is War in a Time of Peace). Where we seem to disagree is over the role the first lady played in this policy. I am not disputing the Hillary played an important role (the failed healthcare reform is one example), but I think it is clear that she has been consistently overstating her foreign-policy experience. The media and Obama's people have been tepid in questioning her experience on these matters, but I guarantee you that McCain's surrogates will not be.
She exaggerated her role in Northern Ireland. The there is the unsubstantiated claim that she advocated for intervention in Rwanda.
I am not frustrated with democracy, but I am frustrated with the Clintons, and even more with their many nattering surrogates. They seem to feel that they are entitled to the presidency. One feels like they are a sort of Bhutto-Zardari family, regarding the Democratic party as family property. Its time for them to recognize that is not the case. It's not their party, they're merely stewards. It would be best if they gave up command without peaceably, but maybe that's to much to expect.

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