Monday, March 3, 2008

What happened to the "inevitability" of the Clinton nomination?

This column by E. J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post raises the question - Why is Hillary trailing Obama when her nomination looked "inevitable" just 3 months ago?

What happened to Hillary Clinton?

Last fall, she was the "inevitable" nominee whose "machine" would raise scads of cash and push her to an early victory. She demonstrated poise and knowledge in debates, and party leaders lined up behind her, fearful of missing her fast-moving train.

But this narrative was flawed from the beginning. Her campaign has suffered from profound organizational failures, small mistakes that took on larger import and miscalculations that have put her in a position where to survive, she must defeat Barack Obama in both Texas and Ohio next month.

The major flaw in the early story line is that there never was a Clinton machine in the sense of a well-populated organization skilled at turning out votes ...

Obama, by contrast, was shaped by his early work as an organizer for the Industrial Areas Foundation and his political life in Chicago, a place where people still talk about ward committeemen and harbor memories of something that was called "The Organization" ...

Her larger problem, which she must solve if she is to best Obama in the March 4 primaries, is reflected in her struggle to find a message, a purpose and a voice suited to the disoriented mood in American politics bred by the frustration of the later Bush years.

Obama is inspirational, of course, but in a particular way: His message has been constant since his boffo Nov. 10 speech at an Iowa Democratic dinner. He is less specific about policies than he is in describing the frustrations voters feel -- with Bush, with Washington, with divisiveness, with partisanship. His consistent promise is not to pass a detailed program but to change the mood and style of politics.

Clinton has offered experience and some well-thought-out policies. That might be enough in a different year. But when it comes to a larger theme, her campaign has been all over the lot.

This one of the reasons that I have continued to support Obama, though I think Hillary would make a fine president.

This election is about something larger than just policy. This election is about leadership and inspiration. If you are anything like me, you feel disappointments, frustration and anger with the absolute lack of leadership and vision and accountability coming from the Bush administration.

Bush has never asked the American people to sacrifice anything to enjoy greater security from terrorism or to support the war in Iraq. He has never offered a vision of what America should be doing. He has squandered the good will that we as a nation enjoyed after Sept. 11. If you think his approval numbers are bad in the US (high 20s - low 30s), listen to the words of Jonathan Rauch, currently a senior writer and columnist for the National Journal, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, and a writer-in-residence at the Brookings Institution , Rauch is also the author of five books. Here's what he has to say about the legacy of the Bush administration:
International opprobrium. The Iraq adventure fueled a precipitous decline in America’s image abroad, and Bush’s pugnacious style during his first term and his tin ear for foreign opinion made a bad situation worse. This is more than just a public-relations problem. National prestige is diplomatic capital; the more unpopular America becomes, the higher the price of foreign support. Mark Malloch Brown, the UN’s deputy secretary-general, recently said that suspicion of the United States has grown to the point where “many otherwise quite moderate countries” are inclined to oppose anything we favor.
Hence, any new president will need to repair the damage done by the Bush administration. This will take empathy, diplomatic skills, superb listening skills, and the ability to form cooalitions. Obama has these in abundance.

In addition, the next president must repair seriously damaged relations with Arab nations who see Bush as aggressive and arrogant.

As Lawrence Lessig (a great thinker and compelling speaker) points out in this video from a previous post, who is better equipped to do this than a dark skinned man named Barack Obama?

The next president must also inspire the American people to get off their collective lazy butts and take part in making this the greatest country in the world again. We need to invest in infrastructure (roads, bridges, fiber optics, etc), education and health care. These are not on the table for John McCain who has staked his presidency on a possible 100 year presence in Iraq. Apparently, McCain and the Republicans have so little cash as to invest in pollsters. Otherwise, they would be getting the message that most Americans think the war in Iraq was a big mistake.

BTW, while researching this post, I came across this blog by Oliver Willis, which he subtitles "Like Kryptonite To Stupid." It's worth reading.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Saturday, March 1, 2008