Watching the New Hampshire primaries Tuesday night, I couldn’t wrap my head around how it is that Democrats are tossing newbie Senator Ba-rack Obama such a bouquet.
Sure, he lost, but add his Iowa win to his close shave with Hillary Clinton for New Hampshire’s top spot and – quick, hand me the smelling salts.
I just can’t fathom why progressives are leaping on the Obama bandwagon and why so many Dems want to see a black president so badly, they can’t get a clear-eyed picture of the candidate.
For the record, Hillary Clinton’s health care plan is more universal than Obama’s; he’s happy with HMOs as long as they charge low-income Americans less. Obama casts himself as the peace candidate – he did vote against the war – despite the fact that since that early vote he’s supported every bill calling for war appropriations in Iraq. Yes, Clinton did, too, but why pick him over her?
And why are folks seeking “change’’ giving John Edwards a pass? As anti-war activist Tom Hayden pointed out this week, he is the only major presidential candidate to favour withdrawing American troops from Iraq. (Clinton and Obama, while pushing de-escalation, would leave troops and advisers in Iraq until 2013.)
Obama’s got a mess of liabilities, and left journos have been tracking them for months, particularly his sample-the-wind adaptations. He’s for hope – but exactly what does that translate into?
Yet I’m not even talking about all that. The fact is, a “fresh face’’ – one of the more overused descriptors applied to Obama – is actually quite useless when it comes to American power politics. Obama has few friends in high places (Oprah doesn’t count, thank you very much) and won’t have much clout to do what it takes to get bills passed.
Compare his experience to Lyndon Johnson’s when he took over the Oval Office. That architect of the Vietnam fiasco? Uh-huh. It was Johnson who used his powers of persuasion and the old favours owed to him and every piece of info he had on every member of Congress to make sure America’s most important civil rights legislation got passed during his tenure.
Does anyone actually think Obama’s got the stuff to take on vested interests to represent Afro-Americans, peace activists, the movement against climate change? Or are the Dem ranks so shallow as to get sucked in by oratory from the political equivalent of a pop star?
Smarts, competence and a tough hide – this last is exactly the quality voters say they don’t like in Hillary Clinton. But she’s the one who knows the Washington ropes. She’s spent 15 years examining the health care system in the U.S., and if anyone can design a policy to take on HMOs, it’s her.
But don’t assume that just because Clinton won New Hampshire, the establishment won’t abandon her when the crunch comes. And if that happens, look to old-fashioned misogyny as the reason.
Just to clarify: I’d be as gratified as the next person were the U.S. to elect a black president, and I’m not one of those feminists who thinks Margaret Thatcher was good for women’s equality. But Google Hillary Clinton Bitch and just see what happens.
Ironically, the more presidential Clinton appears, the less likeable she becomes as a woman. Pundits claim that her teary-eyed performance just hours before voters went to the New Hampshire polls humanized her in such a way that she drew more votes. And her victory speech was way more personal than she’s ever been before.
But don’t be surprised if the new Hillary – all warm and toasty when everyone thought she was toast – starts being trashed for looking weak.
When she was female, sleek and cold, she looked like a loser.
But don’t believe for a second that a new weepy persona will, in the long run, make her a winner.