Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bait and switch: Hillary and the end of the "children's crusade"

Barack Obama's serious flirtation with his one-time rival, Hillary Clinton, over the post of secretary of State has been welcomed by everyone from Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton as an effective, grand gesture by the president-elect. It's not playing quite as well, however, in some precincts of Obamaland. From his supporters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, to campaign aides of the soon-to-be commander-in-chief, there's a sense of ambivalence about giving a top political plum to a woman they spent 18 months hammering as the compromised standard-bearer of an era that deserves to be forgotten. "These are people who believe in this stuff more than Barack himself does," said a Democrat close to Obama's campaign. "These guys didn't put together a campaign in order to turn the government over to the Clintons." Ben Smith - Politico
David Seaton's News Links
In a sense Barack Obama naming Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State would be as if George W. Bush had named a pro-choice feminist to the Supreme Court: an insult to his base. All the youngsters that rang the doorbells and manned the phones and computers, expecting a change they believed in, are now learning what the word "sucker" means.

In America's divided political environment offending the base is not a wise thing to do. The base, as its name implies, is what keeps the whole thing from falling down and going boom. When times get tough all that keeps things going are people with real commitment; they are a precious resource and not to be frittered away. Times look like getting really tough and gratuitously offending the people that put Obama in the White House seems to me a huge mistake on his part. Making an enthusiast feel like a fool is one of the cruelest and dumbest things a leader can do.

As an example of how valuable the hardcore base is, some observers are of the opinion that Sarah Palin hurt the Republicans this year, but I would maintain that the enthusiasm she generated in the Republican base is all that kept McCain from sharing the fate of Barry Goldwater, George McGovern or Walter Mondale.

If McCain had chosen Mitt Romney as his running mate the base would have stayed home and his defeat could have been much worse.

In a year that should have been an epoch making Democratic landslide the Republicans lived to fight another day... Sarah Palin got the base out and voting. The "undecided" and the independents are like sand: the lukewarm are what you add to the base. You can build nothing upon them.

Saying that Hillary is a disastrous choice is not to say that Hillary Clinton wouldn't be a competent Secretary of State. Simply that she voted for the war in Iraq, carries too much baggage (Bill) and doesn't seem to be the ideal person to carry out the policies that those who voted for Obama thought he personified when they voted for him. David Ignatius writes over at the Washington Post:
The idea of subcontracting foreign policy to Clinton -- a big, hungry, needy ego surrounded by a team that’s hungrier and needier still -- strikes me as a mistake of potentially enormous proportions. It would, at a stroke, undercut much of the advantage Obama brings to foreign policy. And because Clinton is such a high-visibility figure, it would make almost impossible (at least through the State Department) the kind of quiet diplomacy that will be needed to explore options.
A job without any of these conflicts that Obama could offer Hillary and which would not offend his hardcore base might be to put her in charge of making health care happen, which is something she could do without leaving the Senate.

What all this probably means is that Obama
simply hasn't been around long enough to have any real team of his own, he has not had the time to acquire as collaborators people of stature that he has worked with over years, people who owe their careers only to him: his people that he can trust to put his interests first.

Not having those people, it looks like he is already being managed by the fixers and the arrangers: he is not managing them. This will surely get worse as the game gathers speed. DS


bailey alexander said...

Maybe it's due to your 'hippy' past. I never had one, for better or worse, but do wonder, if you project your 'grand illusions' from the past onto the present Obama reality.

I'm just glad a biracial guy won, a democrat, a 'change agent' but know, or rather suspect, as I know no more than the next, it's not going to be much different.

Improvisemente, life changes.

And then it doesn't...

Therefore, lowering the expectations and projecting as little as possible, isn't such a bad plan.

Anonymous said...

Baily Alexander...the guys who wrote the articles below are not old enough to have a hippie past...they just understand the penalties incurred when a political party alienates the base, which is what David is saying and..which is what Obama's teams are now doing.
Sirota is in his early thirties.
With all due respect, I think you comment was unfair to David Seaton.

The link to Glenn Greenwald's article mentioned by Sirota below:


By David Sirota

November 18th, 2008 - 12:54pm ET

Seems to me that House and Senate leaders have declared an all-out war on "the Left." In fact, "seems" is the wrong word. It doesn't "seem" like that. They are actually saying it explicitly.

Here's this excerpt from the Washington Post (h/t FDL):

Asked what it would mean if Lieberman kept his chairmanship, one Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes."

Here's the Hill newspaper today:

Democratic leader says party won't turn left

By Mike Soraghan

As the House prepares to elect its leaders, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is challenging the idea that the expanded Democratic majority and its leaders will make a hard left turn.

To show that these aren't errant, uncommon statements, make sure to read Glenn Greenwald's review of how this hatred for "the Left" now reaches all the way to the top of the new Obama administration through Rahm Emanuel.

Whether you think the Lieberman issue is a big one or not - and I think it's not all that huge, really - there's something way bigger going on here. Indeed, it's pretty odd that only two weeks after a landslide election that saw a huge ideological progressive mandate, Democratic congressional leaders think it's a great public message to declare jihad on progressives.

I don't know, call me crazy, but I think 67 million people voted for Democrats because they want Democrats to reject Bush's ideological conservatism and solve problems - not spend their time making paranoid, quasi-McCarthy-ist speeches deriding "the Left."

If we wanted that, wouldn't we have elected John McCain and Sarah Palin?

forensic economist said...

Obama never was a leftist. Some of his positions - health care, for example - are to the right of Hillary's. So appointing Hillary shouldn't be considered shocking to his base, it should be considered consolidating the return of the Clintons.

Obama was a radical only in the delusions of right wingers or of leftists engaged in wishful thinking. He warned in Audacity of Hope of attributing to him beliefs he did not have.

Many of his staffers and advisors during the campaign were part of the Clinton administration. No one should be surprised at Hillary being appointed to anything.

Why would she want it? She may have more real power in the senate.

Anonymous said...

"Obama turning the country over to the Clinton's if he appoints Hillary SOS...." (Yes, she is soooo power hungry)...

BUT WAIT... Her friends say that she is not sure she wants it.. She likes being her own boss as a senator (Yes, she is nooo team player)...
For those with Clinton Derangement Syndrome.. Either of these would work.. wouldn't they...

I say pathetic...

bailey alexander said...

Good point, anonymous, whoever you are...I think.

Note bene, I'm responding to David and his previous comments, which give license to these comments. It's a thread.

David has commented about his hippy past, or at least a petite part that may have been ‘hippyesque’, at one point. He was commenting upon the potentially delusional youth and their expectations.

What I do know, is that I wouldn't dare comment on GG’s lawyerly, pedantic, albeit comprehensive thoughts on how a patriot might act.

But then, I'm an American living in Paris, devoid of all patriotic sympathies, incapable of engaging on that level, I'll leave that to the earnestness of others.

But one can't honestly assume Obama has any choice other than the powers at his disposal, like forensic suggests, who else would he choose, other than the usual suspects, these gusy feast upon one another.

BTW, I'd imagine that David can defend himself if he feels the need, but I doubt he does.

Stephanie said...

It seems to me Clinton can do no worse at State than the others who have been mentioned as front runners for the job (Kerry? Hagel? Richardson?) and would most likely do better. Clinton can’t manage health care from the Senate because she doesn’t have the seniority, although recent reports indicate that Kennedy has changed his mind and offered her something after initially thumbing his nose at her. Still, she will not be in charge or anything like it in the Senate.

Clinton supported the war in Iraq, but so did a lot of other people around Obama, including his veep nominee, and I think the way forward in Iraq will be the same no matter who had won: we will simply continue winding down our troops there, a process already underway.

(I do think, however, that Obama and whoever his Secretary of State is will both be more inclined to bomb Iran than McCain, in order to demonstrate Toughness.)

It should have been clear to his supporters from the start that Obama would have to rely on members of the last Democratic administration and his colleagues in the Senate, particularly in view of his own lack of a mafial or kitchen cabinet as David notes here.

I expect him to toss a little red meat to the base shortly. It shouldn’t take much – they have nowhere else to go and their personal and emotional investment in this politician is considerable.

The polling numbers I’ve seen would seem to suggest that some of the Republican base stayed home anyway (no fault of Palin’s). There was only so much Palin could do for McCain in the circumstances.

roksob said...

Focussing on the past activities and preferences of Obama's nominees is totally counter-productive. Their backgrouns are really quite unimportant if Obama takes charge ... and, he has given every indication that he is quite capable of exerting his authority. He will establish foreign policy for the US and like it or not, when his decisions are finalized, Hillary Clinton will work her ass of to implement those policies to the best of her ability. If she tries do do an end run or to undermine Obama in any way, you can bet your last dollar that the exit door will be slapping that same ass. Perhaps Bush has been played by his cabinet ministers. This is entirely possible if the person in charge is not mentally equipped to fully appreciate the significance of the policy options that he is being offered. Or indeed if he is unaware that there may be significantly different and perhaps more effective options that he is not being offered. We can definitely see this happening with GWB. I think that Obama has sufficient intelligence to put that worry to rest. Give the man a chance to govern before we write him off. If we do not want a bright experienced insider like Senator Clinton, then who? Sarah Palin?. Let's face it, knowledge, experience and intelligence are going to be essential to see the US through the coming year, provided the POTUS exerts his authority right from the start and to put it bluntly, takes no shit from anyone. I firmly believe that Obama will do just that.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Your faith is touching, I am truly moved. I fear that Hillary Clinton is a tad more formidable than you estimate. certain ex-presidents could fill you in better than I could.