Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Go Out And Earn It

I've long resisted the sundry denunciations of Senator Clinton and her campaign for projecting an air of inevitability in her march to the Democratic nomination. I've been willing to chalk a lot of the anti Clinton talk up to reflexive Clinton haters. I am convinced that much of the heat she is taking is from people who have no particular reason to be so vindictive against Clinton, other than the fact that she is Clinton. I've even told myself that to run for President means that you believe you will win. Are we expecting Clinton to start hemming and hawing about her chances?

My perceptions on Clinton have started turning of late. Today David Corn reports on first hand experience with "Clintonites" recently which reflects very poorly upon Senator Clinton's campaign. To be sure, the following words are not from Senator Clinton herself, but she would be well served to disassociate herself from them or risk further alienating undecideds, like myself, in the Democratic primaries.
"When talking to Clintonites in recent days, I've noticed that they've come to despise Obama. I suppose that may be natural in the final weeks of a competitive campaign when much is at stake. But these people don't need any prompting in private conversations to decry Obama as a dishonest poser. They're not spinning for strategic purposes. They truly believe it. And other Democrats in Washington report encountering the same when speaking with Clinton campaign people. "They really, really hate Obama," one Democratic operative unaffiliated with any campaign, tells me. "They can't stand him. They talk about him as if he's worse than Bush." What do they hate about him? After all, there aren't a lot of deep policy differences between the two, and he hasn't gone for the jugular during the campaign. "It's his presumptuousness," this operative says. "That he thinks he can deny her the nomination. Who is he to try to do that?" You mean, he's, uh, uppity? "Yes." A senior House Democratic aide notes, "The Clinton people are going nuts in how much they hate him."
President Clinton may be very popular amongst Democrats, but that does not mean that members of his family are entitled to any post they seek within the party. This story, if accurate, mirrors the criticisms leveled at Hillary on her sense of entitlement and is very troubling. We should not be asking ourselves just who Barack Obama thinks he is to challenge Hillary for the nomination. Unless Hillary takes immediate steps to separate herself from this sentiment, we should be asking just who Hillary Clinton thinks she is... expecting a march to coronation at the Democratic convention, and having a temper tantrum when that march gets interrupted.

This sense of entitlement, and outrage at being challenged in the process that defines our participation as citizens in who it is that will lead this nation, is reminiscent of royal families. I have previously resisted criticisms of Clinton/Bush political dynasties. (I happen to believe that it is unfair to the Clintons to unfairly tar them with linkage to the Bush's when the two families are actually very different with the Bush's stewardship being far more damaging to the nation than Clintons.) But for all the world, Corns report makes it appear that the Clintonites are pining for the days of royalty, with a succession of leaders being determined by family lineage and anyone who would dare challenge that succession being ground into ashes as an example for any others who would have the temerity to follow the unfortunate example. Democrats might appreciate the overall leadership of the Clinton's in national affairs, but this certainly does not mean they have any God given right to Democratic office. They have to go out and earn it, and freaking out because they have not reached exalted leaders status in Democratic circles does not sit well.

I say all this as one of Senator Clintons defenders against the drumbeat of criticizm: see here, here and here. In fact I still find myself pulling for her... hoping she pulls out of this funk and wins it all. But what I've seen lately has taken me from leaning for Clinton to more undecided than ever. I'm lucky that Oregon isn't one of those early primary states!

Frankly, as one who calls for a tough Democrat who will do what it takes to get elected, I find the Clinton campaigns approach to Obama of late to be overwrought and not very effective. Yesterday the Clintonites made themselves laughing stocks around the nation, claiming that Obama lied for saying that he did not have a long term ambition to run for President, as proven by a kindergarten paper in which Obama wrote that when he grew up he wanted to be President. Democrats need to be able run a tough campaign, but we need them to be smart about it as well. Criticizing a kindergartner for wanting to be President is just ridiculously dumb. Lately the Clinton camp is coming across as reflexive and slightly hysterical.

Let me wrap this up by saying that it should be a goal for the next President and Congress to reform the national primary system. Why Iowa and New Hampshire have been bequeathed with the sanctified role they have makes no sense from my perspective, with all due apologies to possible readers from those states. Maybe we could rotate the opening primaries and/or caucuses around. Campaigns starting immediately after the midterm elections is just silly. America is not being well served by the current system and there has to be a better way. In fact it seems to me that both parties should be able to get together on this to make repairing the nomination process a bipartisan endeavor.

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