Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

Hillary’s Legacy

I’ve got to agree with Ezra Klein:

Insofar as Clinton’s campaign was a trailblazing, historic candidacy, it’s because it consciously sought to ease the way for those who would come after Clinton. By proving a woman could be commander-in-chief, by proving a woman could win primary states, by proving a women could out-campaign the guys, the idea was that the barrier would not be so high for future women who wished to run. Clinton’s example would normalize women in national politics. That is the precise opposite of preserving the idea that it’s a rare and unique thing for women to compete in national politics, and only one woman has the capability or credibility to do so.

I don’t pretend to know who from Hillary’s circle is spreading this idea, but it’s vicious. In closing the trail to those who would come after Clinton, it makes a mockery of what truly was trailblazing in her campaign. There are reasons to pick Sebelius and Napolitano and Clinton and all the other women in competition for the vice presidency, and reasons not to do so, but nothing could be worse than trying to retroactively trash the legacy of Clinton’s campaign by robbing it of its contribution to the cause of women in national politics.

I think that is largely right. Hillary did open a lot of doors for women candidates. I think we are likely on the verge of a generation of women running for public office in a way we haven’t really seen before. Perhaps Hillary’s biggest accomplishment is that she didn’t run as a woman. Much like Obama, she ran as a politician. She ran on experience, judgement and health care. She ran as though there was nothing historic about her running for the presidency.

Klein’s point from earlier in his post is important.

Plus, for reasons of simple social justice, it’s important that women are routine candidates for highest office. In an electorate that’s majority female, there should be nothing exceptional about women seeking the presidency.

We’re clearly not there yet. That was, for me, the most disappointing aspect of Hillary’s candidacy. I didn’t really see it until the end, after she dropped out, but this video brought it home for me.

Now, I don’t think that all of the statements that are in there are necessarily sexist. In particular and I don’t think Obama was attempting to be sexist in his comment or that Olbermann was. But the sad fact remains. In 2008 a woman ran for president, yet it was still perfectly acceptable to call her a bitch and a cunt. That stems in part from Hillary’s preexisting public image, but a lot of it was clearly just from the fact that she’s running.

To quote an insightful post at Daily Kos:

I first noticed the nutcracker in late December, next to a rack of doomed “Rudy for President” shirts at a National Airport kiosk specializing in ephemeral topical kitsch. At the time, I was taken aback at the sheer misogynist chutzpah of the product, but I figured that it was a niche political product being sold at a niche political store in a niche political city — Washington — and that it would disappear from the shelves in a couple weeks, relegated to fringe online backwaters like the Newsmax store. Yet the nutcracker spread from DCA through the airports of the nation like a tacky virus, and soon one couldn’t clear security anywhere without being confronted with its stainless steel thighs. Eventually, the nutcracker escaped from the sterile zones and its TSA protection into mainstream American retail, and became minor fodder for late night comics and “wacky news” types like CNN’s Jeannie Moos. But the nutcracker never became a serious news or commentary item — there was very little discussion, at least in the mainstream media, of what the novelty, and its apparent popularity, said about the 2008 campaign or about the nation itself.

And that was the most remarkable aspect of the nutcracker blight: the manner it which it was just accepted. Here we had a blatantly sexist product which traded on one of the most misogynistic archetypes of the last 50 years — the castrating, pantsuit-wearing, hyper-ambitious professional woman — being sold in otherwise anodyne, apolitical stores throughout the country, and no one with a serious microphone was saying anything about it. Anyone with a hint of consciousness about gender politics had to be asking themselves what the hell the deafening silence meant.  Is America irredeemably sexist? Does the fact that a similarly racist Obama doll couldn’t be sold without massive public outrage mean that casual sexism is more tolerated than casual racism?  Would any woman running for president be subject to the same mockery, or is Hillary somehow more susceptible than other female politicians?

Hillary’s not the only one who faced this, Obama does too, and I’m sure that if Bill Richardson caught fire he would have too. In fact, you could make the exact same video about Obama. But with Hillary it went mainstream, with utterly sexist comments being made on national television and in major newspapers, as though it were OK. I think that when people look back on Clinton’s run she will clearly be a pathbreaker, she almost won after all and she would have been a strong favorite in the general election, but they will also be shocked at the amount of sexism that was considered OK in 2008. We may be getting close, but it isn’t normal for a woman to run for president yet.

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Was is the Schedule?

There’s an idea going around that the early primary calendar was a key factor in Obama’s victory over Clinton. I’m not sure I buy it.

Yes, the sequence of the early primaries was not exactly what Clinton wanted it to be. But what this reading forgets is that Obama wasn’t supposed to be the one who benefited from the calendar. It was supposed to be Edwards.

The Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina order that ended up being put in place was hugely favorable to Edwards. Edwards lived in Iowa for 4 years after 2004. He was supposed to be the candidate of organized labor, which was supposed to control the Nevada caucuses. And South Carolina was the only state he won in his 2004 run.

There was nothing uniquely favorable about the primary schedule for Obama. Two completely white states, followed by a Southwestern state where he had no natural base of support followed by one favorable primary isn’t a recipe for success. The fact that he won in spite of the schedule is what’s impressive to me.

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She Hit Her Ceiling

Slate has a piece up arguing that Hillary Clinton didn’t lost, Barack Obama won.

But evidence that Clinton ran a fairly OK campaign, while Obama ran one that simply got better and better, can be found in a chart reproduced in the Journal story from Real Clear Politics data, which averages the national polls since October.

But what the chart tells me is that Clinton ran a terrible campaign. There were about 40-45 percent of the Democratic electorate who were open to the idea of a Clinton restoration and were with her from the very beginning. Her campaign failed in the sole purpose of campaigns, namely convincing people to support her. She never expanded beyond her base at all.

Now, was this because there was a ceiling of 45 percent of national Democrats who were ever willing to support Hillary Clinton? If there was a ceiling then the whole question is moot because Hillary never could have won anyways, at least not under the Democrats rules for delegate allocation. (If she were a Republican she would have been fine, like John McCain was.) But if she didn’t have a built in ceiling of support and those people were open to supporting her, then he campaign failed miserably. She failed to build on her support at all from the beginning to the end of the primary process. That’s a pretty terrible campaign.

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Count All the Points

Via Andrew Sullivan, a statement from Joe Dumars:

Yes, Boston has won four games and Detroit only two. But it’s hard to imagine a more arbitrary and undemocratic way to determine this series’s outcome than “games won.” It is, after all, a bedrock value of the game of basketball that all points must be counted. But how can that be the case when every point beyond the winning point is ignored? There are literally dozens of layups, jumpers, free throws, and (yes, even) dunks that our opponents want to say don’t count for anything at all. We call on the NBA to do the right thing and fully count all of the baskets that were made throughout the course of this series. Once you abandon the artificial four-games-to-two framework that the media has tried to impose on the series, a very different picture emerges, with the Celtics leading by a mere 549 points to 539. Yes that’s right, the margin between the two teams is less than one percent—a tie, for all intents and purposes.

While I see Dumars’ point here, he’s fighting the wrong battle. Detroit shouldn’t have had to play Boston at all. You see, when you take away the media imposed “four-games-to-three” framework that handed Boston their victory over Cleveland and look at the popular score, Cleveland came out on top 596-588. Like Bill Clinton, I’ve never seen a team get so relentlessly hounded out by the media, just because they lost more games. David Stern and the NBA need to step up and count all the points, or else we’re going to fight this injustice all the way to New York and the draft.

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The First

I’ve got to say that Dahlia Lithwick makes a good point about women and the Presidency:

We all know these double standards exist for females in public life—voters demand toughness but not bitchiness, confidence but not shrillness, authenticity but also glamour. If the Clinton candidacy has taught us anything, however, it’s that a woman can straddle all those irreconcilable demands and still win. She can win more than 16 million votes in the primaries and around 1,779 delegates. Clinton has shown that a woman can win huge at the ballot box and bring in huge money, and even if Obama ultimately secures the nomination, those facts will not change. Faced with all that evidence of success, how do the naysayers prove it can never be repeated?

Hillary Clinton has been just about the most successful non-winning primary contender in history. In a presidential nomination process dominated by spin, momentum and the media she has taken to race all the way to the finish line. She just ran into a candidate who designed and executed a near perfect campaign strategy and who hit the campaign finance motherload. Unlike Jesse Jackson in 1988 she didn’t lose because there were broad swaths of the primary electorate that wouldn’t vote for her. She lost because there was a candidate running who was, very marginally, more attractive. That she lost doesn’t say that no woman can ever do it again. It says that a woman has a great shot in any year where as talented a politician as Barack Obama isn’t running.

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Playing Politics with Trade

I’m a little late coming to this, but last week’s New Yorker article “The Free Trade Paradox” is really outstanding. One of the most disappointing things about this primary season for me was watching the Democratic presidential candidates parade around the country talking about their deep seated hatred of NAFTA and their desire to “renegotiate” it and their stances against the Columbian Free Trade Agreement. One of the best things that Bill Clinton did in his presidency was to build and expand a consensus around the concept that trade and globalization are good for the United States. Now, less than 8 years after he left office, Democrats are once again running against trade to try to win working class votes. Instead of explaining to voters why trade is good for them while working to blunt the impact of globalization on those who lose out, Democrats have chose the route of demagoguery. Fortunately James Surowiecki does a good job of deconstructing the arguments against free trade:

It’s an understandable view: how, after all, can it be a good thing for American workers to have to compete with people who get paid seventy cents an hour? As it happens, the negative effect of trade on American wages isn’t that easy to document. The economist Paul Krugman, for instance, believes that the effect is significant, though in a recent academic paper he concluded that it was impossible to quantify. But it’s safe to say that the main burden of trade-related job losses and wage declines has fallen on middle- and lower-income Americans. So standing up to China seems like a logical way to help ordinary Americans do better. But there’s a problem with this approach: the very people who suffer most from free trade are often, paradoxically, among its biggest beneficiaries.

The reason for this is simple: free trade with poorer countries has a huge positive impact on the buying power of middle- and lower-income consumers—a much bigger impact than it does on the buying power of wealthier consumers. The less you make, the bigger the percentage of your spending that goes to manufactured goods—clothes, shoes, and the like—whose prices are often directly affected by free trade. The wealthier you are, the more you tend to spend on services—education, leisure, and so on—that are less subject to competition from abroad. In a recent paper on the effect of trade with China, the University of Chicago economists Christian Broda and John Romalis estimate that poor Americans devote around forty per cent more of their spending to “non-durable goods” than rich Americans do. That means that lower-income Americans get a much bigger benefit from the lower prices that trade with China has brought.

The Democrats opposition to trade really is about trying to swindle people who think trade is bad. Just about no one thinks that Obama or Clinton are really opposed to free trade. Their advisers are all broadly pro-trade, especially Obama’s Austan Goolsbee, who got in trouble for suggesting to the Canadians that Obama isn’t really serious about renegotiating NAFTA. But what people miss is that trade agreements didn’t really hurt America:

The first problem with what the candidates have been saying is that Ohio’s troubles haven’t really been caused by trade agreements. When NAFTA took effect on Jan. 1, 1994, Ohio had 990,000 manufacturing jobs. Two years later, it had 1.03 million. The number remained above one million for the rest of the 1990s, before plummeting in this decade to just 775,000 today.

What changed wasn’t NAFTA. It was the rise of China and India as economic superpowers. There’s not a lot we can do to counter than, beyond helping people who are hurt by outsourcing to China and India get back on their feet. Similarly, Democrats have recently come out against the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. While CFTA isn’t an ideal agreement, it seems to be no-lose for America. Per Matt Yglesias, the deal doesn’t really involve any substantive concessions on America’s side, while Colombia makes all sorts of concessions to US interests. That should be a no-brainer. But because of Democratic paranoia over “free trade” Democrats are opposing the deal.

Democrats really need to come to a more sophisticated understanding of trade. Obstructionism and outright rejection of trade deals are bad for everyone and the focus on “environmental and labor standards” is really just a way to oppose every trade agreement that comes along. Obama seems to get this. The question is whether he is brave enough to say it.

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Michigan and Florida

Charles Peters makes a good point in regards to the mess with Florida and Michigan situation that has gone largely unnoticed:

First primary of 2012 — October 31, 2011

The New Hampshire primary used to be in March. The present chaotic race to earlier and earlier primaries is a recent development, not required by tradition or reason.

The Democratic National Committee, attempting to get this situation under control, adopted new rules governing the timing and order of primaries. Those rules were violated by Michigan and Florida. As a result, the DNC deprived the two states of their convention delegates.

Now, I think this is a little bit overstated. Yes, the start of primary season has been getting earlier and earlier and yes, without real sanctions there will be more of an incentive for states to disobey the start date specified by the DNC, but what the scenario posed here doesn’t account for is the fact that the Democratic nominating procedures are likely to undergo a radical transformation in the next four years. People across the party have decided that the current system doesn’t work at all and there will be a big push to change the rules for next time. Granted, allowing the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated would reduce the leverage that the DNC has over the states in the process of reinventing the rules, but it won’t be that huge a difference, assuming the DNC is legitimately interested in getting everyone on board in a fair system.

Overall, I think Peters’ proposed resolution that the delegations get seated without votes for President makes the most sense. It penalizes Florida and Michigan for breaking the rules and helps the DNC keep leverage over the states. However, in the context of the fight for the nomination, I think Obama ought to relent and just let the delegations be seated. It would be a magnanimous move that would send a message to party leaders that Obama wants to bring Hillary and her supporters on board for the general. Obama would still win anyways, it just might take him a little longer. Giver Hillary and her supporters their win and then move on. It pacifies them and gives Hillary a good climbdown from her “seat Florida and Michigan” position.


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Now that Obama is starting his vice presidential search process, its as good as time as any to take a look at the potential VP candidates on both sides. So how should Obama and McCain go about making their picks?

So it’s an idea the candidates might consider. But whenever they make their picks, there are essentially two models to follow (in addition to picking someone from a key swing state, which is so twentieth century). There’s the Cheney model, in which you select a running mate who shores up your weaknesses, or the Gore model, in which you find someone who reinforces your strengths. In 2000, Dick Cheney appeared to be everything George W. Bush wasn’t: experienced, serious, knowledgeable and steady. In 1992, Al Gore appeared to be a virtual clone of Bill Clinton: young, Southern, ideologically moderate, and fresh. Both picks were extremely effective.

Marc Ambinder has some informed speculation up about the possible candidates. For Obama his list is:

1. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) — Obama really likes her; that’s very important.
2. The Virginia boys: Kaine and Webb
3. Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) — the Clinton stand in.
4. Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ)
5. Sen. Hillary Clinton — there’s a fine balance between subtle pressure and overt hectoring

Wild card: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)

I think a lot of these would be good solid picks for Obama. They’re all in some way hybrid picks, with both Cheney and Gore elements. I’ve long though Sebelius was a great option. She’s got executive experience, but in many ways she personifies Obama’s change message. First, she’s a women, which would highlight the trailblazing nature of the Democratic ticket. Secondly, she is a popular, moderate governor from a red state, who has had incredible success winning Republicans over to the Democratic party. She’d highlight Obama’s bipartisan appeal and provide an actual example of what he wants to do with the country.

I’m not wild about a Kaine pick. First, I’m not sure he guarantees Virginia for Obama, and I think Obama could win it without him. Secondly, he doesn’t have much of a record as Governor. He’s faced Republican obstructionism, but he’s been manifestly unable to work across party lines to find acceptable solutions. Also, Democrats would lose the Virginia governorship if he were elected.

Webb is a different story. He’s got great military credentials and a real appeal to culturally conservative, Appalachian voters. He’s been a shocking effective Senator thus far, getting his GI Bill passed while putting McCain in an impossible political situation doing it. He also passed his Truman Commission for the Iraq War, which is looking into contracting abuses and war profiteering. He has a knack for proposing legislation dealing with the war that even pro-war Senators can get on board with. He’s a former Republican who has the ability to bolster Obama’s message of brining people together. Also, he’s a great attack dog, if a somewhat suspect campaigner. His response to Bush’s State of the Union in 2007 was the most effective I’ve ever seen, dwarfing Sebelius’ effort this year. He’d be hard to reign in, but he would really be a strong pick.

Strickland would only be an OK choice. He’s a former congressman and an ordained minister, which would be a plus, but he’s not particularly dynamic or nationally well known. He would probably bring along Ohio though. However, if you’re looking for strong Hillary supporters there are better options. General Wes Clark would be an outstanding choice, as would Senator Evan Bayh.

Napolitano would be a solid, Cheneyesque pick. She’s got great executive experience and has been effective in running Arizona. She also might be able to put Arizona on the map, which would be a plus given Obama’s preexisting strength in the rest of the Southwest. However, her record on immigration might be a little suspect, given that she signed the toughest employer sanction law in the country. That could lead to her being seen by Latino voters as anti-immigrant, a problem given Latinos preexisting affinity for John McCain.

Hillary herself may be the best option. She would bring the party together allow Democrats to present a united face in the fall. On the other hand, she would mobilize the right and could make Obama look weak if he is seen as being forced to pick her.

Biden or Hagel would be outstanding selections. There isn’t a better foreign policy attack dog than Joe Biden, whereas Hagel’s opposition to the war and status as a Republican, and close friend of John McCain, would emphasize Obama’s bipartisan appeal. Both are probably longshots, Biden especially given his habit of putting his foot in his mouth. On the other hand, picking Biden and publicly forgiving him for his infamous “clean” comments could help bridge the gap to white voters upset at being branded racists.

Ambinder’s GOP list:

1. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)
2. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)
3. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-NY)
4. Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
5. Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Pawlenty would be an interesting choice. He’s a conservative Mid-Western governor who would satisfy the right. He’s also young, energetic and a good campaigner. On the other hand he’s not terribly popular. He’s never won more than 46 percent of the vote and probably wouldn’t allow McCain to carry Minnesota.

Romney would be a terrible pick for McCain. He’s a phony, electoral loser and blatant opportunist. He couldn’t bring his home state along and wouldn’t be anything more than a sop to the right who have for some reason adopted him as a hero.

Bloomberg would be a great choice, if he’d do it. There’s also been speculation that he’s favoring Obama. If he did go with McCain he’d emphasize McCain’s reach to the middle and put a popular executive on the ticket. He’d have a real appeal in parts of the country the GOP hasn’t competed in in for ever and would add real balance to McCain’s ticket, while still emphasizing his independence.

Sanford would be another interesting choice. He’d pacify worried social conservatives, yet still emphasize McCain’s reformer and budget hawk credentials. A McCain-Sanford ticket could make fiscal responsibility and pork busting central elements of their campaign. It could be a very strong ticket.

Thune would be another interesting option. He’d bring social conservatives solidly on board and has proved an ability to go toe to toe with Democrats, having beaten sitting Democratic leader, and Obama confidant, Tom Daschle in 2004. He’d be the best attack dog of the bunch and would provide solid regional balance for the ticket.


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Why the System is Broken

So, Hillary for President owes $20 million plus. You might think that Clinton stands to spend a lot of her next year or so fundraising to pay all of that back. But apparently not.

But these laws were written by, and for, politicians, so a situation like this is less problematic for her political future than you might think. Not only is she not personally on the hook for the roughly $9 million owed people not named Clinton;her other campaign committees have no responsibility for it either.

Beyond that, she’s not even legally able to raise money to pay back all of that money after the Convention in August. And once she fails to raise enough before August the small businesses in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and every other state where she’s left a trail of debt, not to mention Mark Penn, who’s still owed $5 million, aren’t ever seeing a dime. They can’t get a dime from the Clintons personally, despite the fact they have plenty of assets to repay the money. They can’t get a dime from the next Hillary for Senate committee, despite the fact that she’ll be actively raising money to run for office again. They can’t even get any money if Hillary runs for President again in 4 or 8 years, because she’d set that up as a new and different committee, just to avoid the debt.

This is a broken fucking system. Everyone agrees politicians need to be more accountable. Yet we let them write the laws to get off the hook for their campaign debts. I doubt this will ever get fixed, but it would be nice if our politicians were at least a little less shameless.

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Good for Us

I see via Matthew Yglesias that Americans don’t seem to have bought into John McCain and Hillary Clinton’s gas tax holiday idea. Its not much, but even the small majority that oppose the idea is progress. Obama’s strong stand and repeated attempts to explain the issue coupled with the universal disdain for the idea expressed by economists, environmentalists and other experts of all stripes led to people actually opposing the idea. What a stunner!

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