Monday, May 12, 2008

George Bush, Brought to Us by Clinton Defiance

Today's MUST READ: Michael Crowley just posted a piece at The New Republic, Siege Mentality. It's frightening. It also explains why all this is so sickeningly familiar. I was insane that Clinton did not resign after what he did. Worst, Crowley reminds us of the costs then of the Clinton's defiance, the continued costs now. The ramifications are as depressing as the horror of this repeat melodrama.
Some in the Senate were on the brink of travelling to the White House to advise the president to resign. But congressional Democrats ultimately rallied, and Hillary played a decisive role in that effort. "I'm the field general of this operation," she told Democratic Representative Jim Moran, according to Washington Post reporter Peter Baker's definitive history of impeachment, The Breach. (Hillary had served as a staff lawyer on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate proceedings. Her fluency in impeachment law enabled her to make a powerful case about Republican abuses.) So, if Hillary has believed that she can sway superdelegates in the face of conventional wisdom, it's because she has some experience to justify her self-confidence.
Just note that had Bill Clinton resigned, Al Gore would have run as an incumbent in 2000. That would have bene enough of an advantage to break the 324 vote tie. (Speaking of which, don't miss HBO's Recount May 25th)
Surviving impeachment didn't just require savvy tactics; it required defiance.
So had the Clintons not been so defiant, then perhaps we never would have had George Bush or the Iraq war or Hurrican Katrina abuse. The mind collapses under the possibilities....
To survive this assault, the Clintons built up a counter-narrative of the way Washington works. They believed that the city's snooty press and opinion elites viewed them as provincial hicks, too déclassé to win admission to their cozy Georgetown clique. And this was an early seed of a deeper critique that the Clintons came to adopt: that the press is composed of elites who are out of touch with average America...That disconnect became a favorite theme of Clinton pollster Mark Penn, who explained to one interviewer last year that "[media] elites are increasingly separated from the kind of struggles that working- and middle-class voters are feeling." And it burst to the surface in South Carolina earlier this year, when Bill Clinton berated a CNN reporter who had asked him a question about campaign tactics after a town hall meeting. "Shame on you," he said, noting that "not one single, solitary soul" at the event had such a question. "This is what you live for," Clinton added scornfully.
Why they think Obama is like a Republican:
The Clintons aren't just reprising the political strategy that helped them survive impeachment; they're also re-enacting certain critiques of their opponents. They believe that Barack Obama, like the '90s-era House Republicans, has abused the system. They fume that he ran up his delegate lead in low- population red-state caucuses like Nebraska, Idaho, and Kansas with the help of activists who don't represent average Democratic voters. After losing Iowa, Hillary complained that its caucuses weren't accessible to night-shift workers and military personnel.
And regarding their "victimhood" a.k.a their innocence...
one gets the overall impression that the Clintons feel Obama shouldn't be here in the first place--that this "young man's" very claim to power is itself questionable. In this sense, the Clintons may be victims of their own sense of victimhood. The vileness of the Clintons' past enemies seems to have convinced them that their enemies always are, by definition, in the wrong. And that Obama's candidacy is almost like another illegitimate attempt to steal a White House that, in some sense, belongs to them.
Harold Ickes was smart enough then. Too bad the Clintons were too busy listening to the likes of Dick Morris and Mark Penn instead of Harold. Otherwise,...oooh!

Ickes "considered the current scandal a dire threat to the Democratic hold on the presidency." He told senior Democrats that they needed to push Clinton out of power for the sake of the party--a now familiar line of argument. Needless to say, Ickes's advances went nowhere, and, as he'd feared, Al Gore lost. We'll see in November if the Clintons' refusal to quit has the same effect again.

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