WASHING his Wishy, not-really-that-conservative style:
When Hillary Clinton is good on the Sunday talk shows, she is really, really good. But when she is bad, she’s atrocious. When she talks about policy, she will dazzle you. When her own ambitions are on the line, it’s time to reach for the sick bag.
On “Meet the Press” Sunday, it was the latter. Clinton refused to admit any real errors. She implied that Barack Obama is unfit to be president, without ever honestly taking responsibility for what she actually believes.
Fair, and fair-warning: if Clinton is dazzling on Policy, and awful on Ambition (whatever that means), two guesses which one we're about to talk about.
We agree with Bob Somerby: when someone like Gore, or either Clinton, has a perpetual target painted on their backs by the Press gang they should simply avoid it. Tim Russert gazes out the same Overton window Brooks does. Did anyone imagine he was going to spend an hour of Wonk with her? Clinton's stage demeanor is poor; it's widely known that she's personable and much more at ease in person. It's not Russert's job to bring that out, but, pace Dowd, Collins, and the "gang" "around" the "computer screen" at the "office" where "MoDo" may not actually have been , it is his job to discuss policy, not tout horseraces. As for "ambition", what needs to be added at this point? It's a characteristic much to be decried when it occurs in Al Gore or Hillary Clinton. The only time "ambition" among Republican candidates comes up is when they lament the fact that Fred Dumbo Thompson has to import his.
She broadcast her own humility: “You know, I’m very other-directed. I don’t like talking about myself.” She also described the central role she plays in the lives of all living creatures in the universe: “The Iraqi government, they watch us, they listen to us. I know very well that they follow everything that I say.”
Just stop talking to these guys!
I mean, look, I agree. Clinton goes into clumsy mode far too easily. She comes across as calculating. She comes across as a middle-aged actress trying to hide how much she needs a part and how much she knows about the dirt underneath. Is this in some way different from most other politicians? Of the major remaining candidates, Romney's all sheen and no substance, McCain sounds spontaneous, frequently to his detriment, Edwards comes across no better than Hillary, and Giuliani (if he's still a major candidate) is an arcing wire of exposed avarice. Only Huckabee and Obama have the gift of appearing totally at ease and mostly genuine. And personally I don't believe either one of 'em.
We'd leave it there, except that our current Administration belongs to Mr. Brooks, regardless of what he says he thinks now or how non-totally conservativelike he appears to a succession of Times ombudsmen. Dick Cheney's wallowed in naked ambition and raw paranoia for seven years, and set new age-group records for hubris. His co-president broadcast his own humility, "ignored" polls, got advice direct from the Almighty, and read the minds of world leaders, and I don't recall a peep coming from Mr. Brooks' direction until his approval numbers collapsed.
Both Clinton and Obama have eagerly donned the mantle of identity politics. A Clinton victory wouldn’t just be a victory for one woman, it would be a victory for little girls everywhere. An Obama victory would be about completing the dream, keeping the dream alive, and so on.
Now, here's the thing about this whole tsimmis: I don't believe that either is the case. Clinton, as noted above by Mr. Brooks, is best at wonkery; Senator Obama at rhetorical flights of inclusiveness. It's a ludicrous premise. If Clinton tries to rally women to her side, if Obama (or his wife) tries to portray himself (rightly) as a unique opportunity in African-American history, so what? On the GOP side you've got Mr. 911, Mr. POW, Mr. Somewhat Competent Inheritor of Wealth, and Mr. Southern Baptist. So what?
The problem is that both the feminist movement Clinton rides and the civil rights rhetoric Obama uses were constructed at a time when the enemy was the reactionary white male establishment. Today, they are not facing the white male establishment. They are facing each other.
Anybody know how to perform the Heimlich over the internet?
But the entire theory of identity politics was that we are not mere individuals. We carry the perspectives of our group consciousness. Our social roles and loyalties are defined by race and gender. It’s a black or female thing. You wouldn’t understand.
Then let's put it in a way you will understand: fuck you. Question: when isn't the "entire theory of politics" that we are not mere individuals? Answer: Anarchy, which somehow lacks a champion this time around, and, charitably, phony-baloney libertarianism, which is allowed to pretend it's about individualism only because it performs its triple-somersaults over the safety net of knowing it will never be enacted.
Just because the "group consciousness" on the GOP side dare not speak its name except in Ron Paul's newsletters doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Why is "immigration" such a big deal over there, eh?
What we have here is worthy of a Tom Wolfe novel:
Bullshit identity politics from a Patrician perspective? Please, in the Name of all that's holy, do not disturb his corpse.
...the bonfire of the multicultural vanities. The Clintons are hitting Obama with everything they’ve got. The Obama subordinates are twisting every critique into a racial outrage in an effort to make all criticism morally off-limits.
Shit, Dave, as you noted just four paragraphs before, the accusations against the Clintons personally were "absurd".
Let's inject some facts (foreign concept, I know). Obama, trailing Hillary badly all year, was frequently encouraged on the pages of your Op-Ed section to begin attacking her. This advice came from you, as well as Frank Rich and MoDo, even if you didn't write about it twice a week.
So, again: fuck you if you now suggest he shouldn't've, or that she shouldn't fight back. After Iowa the Clinton campaign found itself sailing desperate waters, partly in the sense of the gleeful shipwreck dispatches "journalists" were composing. The campaign stepped up its main line of attack, which is that Senator Obama is too green and his pro-anti-partisanship too airy for Our Dangerous Times.
Mitt Romney did exactly the same thing, only raised exponentially, when he was on the rocks in Iowa and again in New Hampshire. I don't recall you writing a column about how anti-religion or anti-shot-down-Navy-napalmer he was. In fact, I recall you writing a column about how it all ushered in the next era in "conservative" dominance.
The final two points I’d make are: First, this whole show seems stale and deranged to the younger set, as Obama and Clinton seemed to recognize when they damped down the feud yesterday afternoon. The interesting split is not between the feminist and civil rights Old Bulls, it’s between the establishments of both movements, who emphasize top-down change, and the younger dissenters, who don’t.
Is that the Younger Set that came out in droves to push Obama to second place in New Hampshire? Or the Younger Set that's a harbinger of that Second Glorious Reagan Revolution of yours, that's backing Huckabee as a way of saying "please take our votes again before we disappear and stop inconveniencing not-quite-conservative Times columnists"? Or the Younger Set that's backing Ron Paul Superstar? Just tell me which one of these partisans will be leading us into the Non-Partisan Promised Land?
Second, this dispute is going to be settled by the rising, and so far ignored, minority group. For all the current fighting, it’ll be Latinos who end up determining who gets the nomination.
At last, a bridge to the 21st century.
And its transcendence of identity politics.