Okay, so my last post feels a little dated now. Especially as we've had the "fairy tale" Bill Clinton remark, the preposterous insinuation that Obama is a supporter of Ronald Reagan's policies, and Oh yes, that silly remark about Martin Luther King Jr. versus President Johnson.
The problem is both Obama and Clinton's actual policy positions are not that different, and Hillary was trying to differentiate herself through dirty smudging. Indeed the silliest aspect to Hillary Clinton's insinuation that Obama is "less" than liberal is that the Clintons were--and are--masters of hewing a more centrist path. They are the masters of triangulation; they are the ones that made welfare reform palatable to their Democratic base. "Present" votes included, Obama's voting record in the Illinois legislature is solidly liberal and clear. We don't need to throw muck on his record to debate which candidate might be best.
One more thing: despite the media brouhaha about the heated 'personal exchanges' between Obama and Clinton, I didn't find those flashes dominated the debate. I thought the debate was an excellent showing by all three candidates--Edwards included. They all came away with something to recommend them. My husband, however, a more solid Clinton supporter, saw the strength of Obama for the first time. 'He's so confident and relaxed,' he kept saying. 'He's a boardroom guy. Doesn't break a sweat' And it hit us both: Obama is a combination McKinsey consultant and Martin Luther King. Confident corporate board room guy along with powerful orator.
That's why I've found it interesting who, as it turns out, are Obama supporters. Among the conversations I've had, what's struck me are the guys--white guys, that is--who like him. At a party one evening, I met an investment banker who was sure Obama could and should win. As someone who moves in powerful financial circles, he sees Obama as that relaxed winner who can deal with power. A neighbor and friend was glumly walking the dog the other day, after Obama's loss in New Hampshire. 'I just hate dynastic politics,' he said through gritted teeth. And just yesterday, I was walking out of class when one of my students revealed he's a huge Obama supporter and dreams of writing speeches for him. 'I heard him speak in Trenton, and man, I've been to I don't know how many rock concerts, and that guy was electric.' To him, Obama is the rock star orator.
Now on to family politics--Bill Clinton playing bad cop/hatchet man. No doubt poor Bill feels like he owes Hillary big time--a whole political career's worth. All those years she stood by her man, looked the other way at his dalliances, supported him, lashed out at the press that everything was a right wing conspiracy--well, he's incurred a damned big debt to her. So he'll do anything--even tarnish that Armani-clad, silver-haired statesman image he buffed up in the past few years.
Here's my problem with this dynamic. I just heard a fascinating interview with Jacob Weisberg, editor at Slate.com who has recently published a book on George W. Bush--The Bush Tragedy
--a Shakespearean, psychological portrait of Bush's Oedipal struggle with George Bush senior. The bad Prince Hal who both wants to veer the other way (Texas drawl Born Again Republican versus Establishment Connecticut Yankee Republicanism), prove his father wrong and yet be
his father. The disaster of the Bush years is because we've witnessed, writ large, this father-son dynamic. As Weisberg put it, the failure of Bush's presidency is because "Bush didn't know his own limitations." In other words, we've had to live through foreign policy decisions that are no more than an extension of familial compulsions; that blinding, self-destructive will that we all have, as we inflict our private family dramas on others. Apparently, within the Bush family, the tragedy is that their clumsy, renegade Prince Hal has actually destroyed the Bush legacy, since Jeb Bush was supposed to be the groomed 'heir-apparent' until the rambunctious drunk showed up at the kitchen door and revealed he had ambition and drive, too. The Bush name has, in effect, been trashed by the delinquent son, who wound up crashing the family car, not driving it onward to success.
So I don't want the Clinton version of this. I don't want Bill and Hillary's compulsions converted into the public domain. Her need to prove herself and receive payback for her misery as First Lady; his need for salvation in his wife's steely arms. (Will Chelsea jump in too one day?) I've had enough of the family drama, on both party sides. That's another reason why I like Obama--he wrote his highly wrought memoir about his absent Kenyan father, flushed those Oedipal conflicts out of his system, and moved on to create a public persona that seems remarkably free of such demons. That's why, I am sure, he can create such a broad vision of hope that transcends him. That's why the investment banker and the college kid are drawn to him.
I have no doubt, as the New York Times
states today in its endorsements, that Hillary is eminently qualified and prepared to take on the post of President. In many ways, my brain votes for her--I think she's forceful, detailed, and hardworking. But my gut, and my psychological radar, is wary of her. She seems incapable of self-reflection, of that added bit of self-awareness that draws a line between personal compulsions and public projection.
My biggest fear is that if Bill Clinton continues his hatchet job, and Hillary wins the Democratic nomination this way, there will be a boomerang effect in Democratic possibilities. All those independents, those freshly recruited young people energized by Obama, will be turned off and may not show up on Election Day. What the Clintons can't seem to master is fighting without leaving so many soured enemies in their path. They don't know how to fight clean.
Please don't drag us into family politics. We've all got enough on our own home fronts, as it is.