Pat Buchanan on Dem Race

I think he captures the essence of what has transpired very accurately.   Link here.

Key quotes:

Stunned and stung, Barack’s African-American backers then rushed into the baited trap. One after another, they headed for the TV cameras to charge that the Clintons had fought dirty, forcing voters to focus on the race and gender of the candidates rather than on their records, ideas and issues…But the damage has been done. And reviewing the returns from Nevada and the polls in South Carolina, it may be irreversible. Barack is no longer a crossover candidate who transcends race. The color-blind coalition he seemed to be assembling appears to be coming apart.

In three weeks, Barack has been ghettoized. The crossover candidate, the great liberal hope, has become a Jesse Jackson, who is ceded the black vote and a few states, then given a speaking role at the convention, as the party moves on to the serious business of electing a president.  

If Hillary becomes the nominee I will really have to think hard about this.  This process and her and her husband’s campaign (let’s be frank they refer to “our” campaign on the trail now, even in the debates) has disgusted me beyond what I thought was possible. 

Depends on if Bloomberg gets in.  I’d vote for him over her in a heartbeat.  What I’m not sure I would do is cast a protest vote (again depending on who the Republican is) or not participate.  But I won’t vote for her.  That much is clear to me.

I came in somewhat skeptical towards her but willing to give her a second look, but this nomination race has shown me all I’ve needed to see to say no thanks.     

Published in: on January 22, 2008 at 5:17 pm  Comments (7)  

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  1. Sad but true, I’m afraid.

    Obama is a dialogical communicator in the midst of a monological political discourse.

    The Clinton’s have succeeded in recent weeks by, to some extent, dragging him down to their preferred monological discourse, wherein questions of true/false, right/wrong, and honest/dishonest are subordinated to the one overriding question of win/lose.

    Obama compounds the short-comings of this win/lose discourse by failing, in some specific instances, to convince careful listeners of even the truth of what he is saying, let alone his basic rightness and honesty.

    The political discourse about race in America is about as win/lose as it can get and Obama is in the painfully inescapable position of being perceived by first-tier monological value systems as an *objectively* verifiable “black” man, therefore running a campaign *rightfully* characterized in terms of race. Once this re-framing of what appeared to be an authentically second-tier campaign is completed, Obama will indeed be, in the eyes of a critical mass of pundits and voters, a first-tier black candidate.

    The only second-tier way out of the self-sealing process, imho, is to engage the monological discourse at the levels of both content and meta-content, systematicaly exposing whatever invalidities are being expressed by the Clintons, from their attributions about him to their covert re-framing of his campaign. The best way to do this is to balance counter-advocacy with counter-inquiry, avoiding any appearance of defensiveness, while continuing with his proactive second-tier framing of his movement-campaign.

  2. chris,

    there are plenty of reasons for opposing hillary clinton (esp. if you do not support progressive policies e.g. universal health care, withdrawing from iraq, etc.), but imo her campaign against obama is NOT one of them. i wonder if you’re letting emotions sway your considerations too far. the obvious is worth repeating: ’08 was always going to be a tough, tough primary battle for the Dems and nobody is going to get a free pass to the nomination. for months the media had given obama strikingly favorable press, edwards favorable press when he could get it, and clinton largely negative press (according to the studies out there). clinton had no choice but to go negative to “vet” obama, since the press wasn’t going to do it and obama is still a very poorly known candidate. obama’s supporters seem to be shocked that obama is getting hit by hard attacks and this is somehow beneath their dignity to allow. that seems to be a rather immature approach to politics, if you ask me.

    i think it’s really poor thought to blame hillary for shifting the focus of the campaign to race and gender. if anything, the msm is to blame for characterizing the candidates this way. she teared up at one campaign stop (no tears), and the media goes crazy and wonders if a woman can be president if she cries. so you blame HILLARY for injecting gender? and how exactly is she to blame for injecting race into the debate? it seems to be the most objective view is that obama himself injected race subtly into the campaign first by continually comparing himself to MLK, Jr. (even a few prominent black politicians — HRC supporters, yes — have said the same thing: obama led the march to bring on race). when HRC replies with a comment comparing MLK and JFK to LBJ to highlight her theme of “action, not just speeches”, she is attacked by obama supporters for race baiting. then, one day after NH, jesse jackson, jr. gives the single most odious officially sponsored campaign message: hillary didn’t cry for katrina, she only cries for her appearance (way to merge race baiting and sexism in the same media interview). everything else in the race dust up between the candidates occurred chronologically after obama’s campaign injected race into the game. that he would do so shortly before south carolina, which he needs desperately to win, provides an obvious motive, if one wonders why he would want to do so.

    now, after the racial stuff has blown over, the candidates have moved on to other things, but some of obama’s supporters (and YOU, apparently) are angry and frustrated because your candidate isn’t winning any more. understandable. but how does clinton deserve the blame for this?

  3. I think a couple of things are going on Joe.

    I don’t think the Clintons purposefully injected race into the debate. But neither did Obama. A number of neutral figures simply stated that her words (on the LBJ/MLK comment) were inappropriate at best. The media then stoked it for sure.

    But then Hillary as is her custom, went out Meet the Press and said there was not a shred of evidence for the criticisms. All she had to say was something like

    “I’m sorry. I didn’t intend my words to diminish anybody. I can understand now that people could interpret the words that way, and let me make clear that was not my intent.”

    Boom. End of story.

    But her reflex–given the history–is to always be on the defensive. The bios (even admiring ones like Bernstein’s) agree that her biggest flaw is an inability to admit any error. Plus her tendency towards secrecy, sycophants around her, and to hold grudges. Play the victim card–the media, the Republicans, sexism, whatever.

    That worries me in a president.

    Obama didn’t comment on her words, but yeah his campaign (as I mentioned before on the blog) made some comments that were wrong. Particularly yes Jesse Jackson Jr. Of course it was ludicrous to question the Clintons in their support of the black community.

    I do think the Clinton campaign saw that when the controversy erupted they were willing to run with it and use it (manipulate?) to their advantage. Again opportunism not racism I’d said. In a way I find/found slimy. The cocaine use was particularly awful in this regard. Like Howard Wolfson going on CNN and saying “We do not talk about the cocaine abuse.” And he said this like 3 times. Sure, you’re not talking about the thing you’re not talking about. Wink, wink nudge nudge.

    The ploy, as I think Buchanan correctly notes, was to subtly insinuate that Obama was the black candidate. Not a candidate who is black.

    And they’ve played this the media doesn’t love us card, it’s all pro-Obama. She never had her campaign pitch (prior to Iowa) about being the presumptive frontrunner challenged by the media. Anything Bill says automatically gets covered, which they’ve figured out with the attack stuff. I don’t think the MSM covers anybody that well tell the truth. But none of the others (minus Edwards who alone might have a legitimate beef) whines about their coverage like the Clintons, which is rather annoying to me.

    True that Clinton got sexist comments (undeserved) after her choking up moment. But then again Obama had the specter of “angry black man” yesterday with his “confrontation” with the NyTimes reporter which if you saw the video turned out be nothing.

    Which is to say the MSM thing is as it is because the MSM sucks and want to gin up controversy wherever they can, but the Clintons want to make it about them, like their somehow special in this regard.

    During the 90s I remember thinking how flat out insane the Republican attack machine was (and I still think that). But their activities of late have made me think that they (the Clintons) haven’t learned anything since. They didn’t help themselves then, and I am really turned off to the Democrats right now because of this.

    I’m mostly angry with Bill. He’s the leader of the party and should act like a party statesman. He can campaign for her. That’s cool. Just campaign for her, not abuse his position to take down her opponent.

    Hillary to me can’t have it both ways. She can’t on the one hand say she is disadvantaged because she’s a woman and then on the other hand have the ex-president do her dirty work.

    Sure I’m a supporter of Obama and if Clinton had won in a regular (what I would call fair) race that would’ve bummed me out. No doubt. But I would still have considered voting for her. But it’s the manner in which they/she have conducted this that has me very angry. Not that they are winning.

    Tough but fair would have been fine. Obama has weaknesses to be sure. They could have had that debate. But this drag it down to the mud because she knows she already has a lotta people against her is really low ball.

    i.e. If they would not have run under the assumption that the point of the Democratic nomination process was to rubber stamp what they had already decided was what was “owed” her. And the real sin, by their lights, of Obama is that he spoke out of turn and dared question the obviousness of her entitlement. Restorationist, dynastic thinking pure and simple.

    That their criticisms of him for not waiting his turn obviously had racial overtones (“he’s uppity”, Bill called him a “kid”) they should have foreseen.

    The drug stuff, the way she says Obama says the Rep. had “better ideas”–she knows that’s wrong. She’s not dumb. It’s just deflating.

    My absolute favorite though may be when Wolfson said that criticizing Bill was a “right wing talking point.” Pure cynical postmodern-ese. Doesn’t matter whether the criticism is valid or not in anyway, just that the Republicans could use it.

    Apparently it’s not a right-wing talking point to (and I know you think differently on this one but I disagree) to question Obama’s anti-war position. Obama was kind enough to say that Bill was using “misinformation”. It would have been more correct, as I see it, to say that he flat out lied and misrepresented the thing. Again Bill is no dummy.

    The Clintons don’t actually believe (I would bet) that someone who was against the war initially to prove they were really anti war bona fides should have been voting against the funding from day one. But it doesn’t matter, it seems to me, that they don’t believe it. They’ll say it. And I find that weak and irresponsible. And that it’s calculated and conscious makes it worse in my book.

    And again it is a “they” at this point. I’ve not heard any mainstream reporter, even in the debate, ask Bill why he refers to “our leading opponent”–last time I checked he wasn’t on the ticket. And I think it would be a legitimate question to ask Hillary. Either she has told Bill to say the things he is saying and does that mean she is afraid to do this kinda take down work herself OR he’s off-script and does that mean she can’t control him.

    I think she needs to answer–at least in the general if she gets the nomination–what exactly is Bill doing and not doing. What is his role? He’s got Rahm Emanuel calling him telling him to just shut it.

    The thing with Hillary has always been that she is very smart, works hard, wonkish, and actually by all accounts in private a very kind human being. But this political persona she has adopted because she is afraid to show her true self is just so elitist, evasive, and contracted.

  4. hi chris,

    your last point about hillary’s persona having definite drawbacks is good. hillary has already answered several questions about bill’s prospective role in the White House, and i’m sure it’s going to keep coming up. and i agree with the folks who feel bill has been a little too careless with the truth in some of his remarks (e.g., Obama on Reagan) and i find fault with that.

    that said, i think you’ve largely bought hook line and sinker into the Andrew Sullivan / Pat Buchanan / Hillary Hater / Obama Kool Aid Drinker narrative of the campaign and how the Clintons have played “unfair” and poor Obama has been victimized. it’s hard to argue against an entire narrative because you are relying on a whole string of extremely minor events, strung together on a narrative supporting your view, without regard for (a) the full context of the events, (b) a charitable, complex reading of human motivations, and (c) a balanced look at the failings of the supposedly wronged candidate.

    i don’t share your narrative, so consequently have no problem with the overall tenor of the campaign so far. race adn gender issues were always going to come up, and get discussed, and there were always going to be perceived slights and insensitivities, no matter who Obama or Clinton’s opponents might be. i think both candidates have conducted themselves with dignity and fairness.

    what use is it for me to look at the individual events you cite — such as bill’s “kid” remarks — and cite the other side of the coin (bill calls himself the “comeback kid”; “kid” has NEVER been understood to be a racial slur, ever UNTIL obama’s folks decided to make it so; bill’s rhetorical point was to highlight the experience issue which he believes works in hillary’s favor, etc.) i could go through item by item that you bring up and give the counterpunch (yes, one clinton aid brought up drug use AS DID OBAMA HIMSELF IN HIS OWN BOOK and for that he was FIRED; another supporter brought up the drug use and clinton called it “over the line” in a debate, etc.) the bottom line is i’ve seen the campaign play out just as you have but i don’t hear a violin playing for obama.

    the alternative narrative, the one i submit i find much more plausible than this horrible clintons-as-machiavellian-tyrants story, is simple: clintons are playing conventional politics, no better or worse than the game is usually played. if obama wins, they have done him the enormous favor of having prepared him for what is sure to be an even uglier and messier GE campaign. if obama loses, it will be in large part because his “new politics” is really an old politics of the elite noble progressive reformer, an American democratic tradition that has brought many a campaigner from Adlai Stevenson to Paul Tsongas to the public eye, allowed them to keep their hands unsullied, and then ultimately lose. if obama can’t beat the clintons with his “new politics”, then he can’t beat the republicans in the fall either, and since i very much want a democrat to win i would rather obama’s weaknesses were revealed in the primary season. if the past few weeks are any indication, the chief contribution of the “new politics” to the national discussion is primarily to create a discourse of whining, sore loserhood, and to stoke the resentments of disaffected idealists.

    … bottom line: i love obama and want him to be president someday. if i have to vote for him in 08, i will. but i think he’s too green and would be much happier voting for him in 4 years or 8 years.

  5. thought you might enjoy this link

    an excellent discussion (including comments) that shows many Dems and progressives do *not* by Obama’s narrative

  6. Joe,

    Some fair points on the Adlai Stevenson front. Though I think he has tried to model himself more on Kennedy, trying to create a movement/image.

    I’m not a huge fan of Klein and no doubt there are Democrats and progressives who are worried that Obama could be beaten in the fall and will back Hillary bc they think she is tougher. And I’m willing to say that fear isn’t totally irrational.

    I just think even if she does win (nomination and general let’s say), she is going to have a hard time initiating her agenda if she only wins say 42-45% of the popular vote, which is at most all she ever could get.

    Obama is more upside more downside. Could flop could blow up. Could realign. With Hillary you know it will be close and she’ll have a shot, but it will be ugly, nasty, and brutal.

    I think part of the anger this time around is that it looks like all the world they are playing the Republican card–against their own guy!!! People expect it with a Rep. vs. Democrat. Even say a Rep vs. Rep. But between the Democrats and the rationale given is that well if we don’t do it to ourselves the Republicans will get us, we won’t be ready, I think underestimates how badly independents (again like myself) can be turned off by this kind of mudslinging. In that sense I think Hillary is following a Rove-ian strategy. Depress the middle so they don’t turn out, play to the base.

    She’s not doing it the worst ever. It may be just conventionally bad, no doubt. Maybe I’m holding her to a higher standard than say George W. Bush. But do we really want that to be the basis of comparison?

    One point though I will disagree with you.

    Kid surely by itself has never been (I suppose) a racial slur. Except take the race out of it. He’s a grown man (Obama). Forget whether it was racist; it was “ageist” if you like. It was extremely demeaning and not meant in a “comeback kid” playful teasing way. And I’m not going to put myself in a position where I would decide (not saying you are) that a black person had no place to hear/feel like it had racial overtones.

    Obviously he didn’t have to intend it that way for people to have legitimately heard such overtones, given the history. And it says more that he didn’t consider the possibility that it might offend. He went on some black talk shows to explain his words, but I didn’t see him go on the MSM and say “Look I didn’t mean it that way, I can understand how it could have be interpreted that way….” Similar to Hillary with the Iraq War Vote.

    I can understand given their history of why they are so constitutionally unable to admit a mistake and play the victim card, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    Again for me it was part of this “how dare he” kinda mentality. Which is really not so much Obama as it how dare anybody challenge us–this coronation/entitlement vibe they give off. Bugs the hell outta me. Which is more elitist than racist, but the fact that they are white and he’s black isn’t going to be completely ignored by people.

    I just don’t think running based on fear of the Republicans, on defense is a good strategy. I could be naive on this one. I’m just so tired of this level of discourse in our presidential politics.

    Obama is not as good in the debates. He’s gotten better, but he has a long way to go on that front. But I think his “new” (or rather hope-based) politics is not just cerebral Adlai Stevenson as it is a generational call. A reset button move.

    All I can see with her is more triangulation, obsessive poll-testing, and a deep down fear that the country really is conservative. It doesn’t mean she can’t win–and truth be told how it’s going now is probably the only way she can win and she has to know that–but I don’t think it would bode well for the party.

    I’m not a member of the Democratic party and don’t identify as a progressive (don’t identify as a conservative either, wouldn’t say I’m anti-progressive or regressive per se), so I’m an outsider. But I would have to worry, if I were a member, there could be a repeat of the 90s and their victory being pyhrric in that it saps party strength across the board. Which is why all the purple and red state Dems I think are supporting Obama.

    That’s why I like Obama’s post-Iowa speech where he told the party to shed its fear. The Reagan analogy was really about that–the Republicans gambled (“rolled the dice”) in 1980 and it paid off big time. I do think the Democrats have a moment to take that kinda leap. I’m increasingly skeptical they will.

    The Clintons reaction to that episode (Reagan) is emblematic I think of past war wounds. Just in general they represent the past to me. They don’t offer anything that can excite me. But if I were a Dem, I could see how it might be different. For you you are more aligned with the progressive movement, so you’re calculus would be based more on who can achieve that goal. I get that.

    Mine is simply to have a more civil discourse. Again I could be naive but I actually think it would be possible. Perhaps right some wrongs on the international front. Give people a sense of optimism again, ignite some idealism and make people (esp. younger talented) people look to governmental work.

    I think overall this post was more about a cathartic release for me, than a narrative per se, but I could see how that it comes across that way.

    It allowed me somehow to re-embrace my independent streak and not have to worry or feel guilty for not being pleased with her candidacy.

    So in other words, hopefully now my criticisms will be more balanced. 🙂


  7. Got it. Good discussion (I need a political fix).

    You’re right about our different priorities. I could care less about the civility of political discourse as a major issue. It doesn’t move me. I can see how it has a certain appeal among intellectuals who aren’t really invested in a need to change, but it’s just window dressing. I’ll never forget W Bush’s promise to be a “uniter, not a divider” and how completely empty and false that turned out to be.

    That said, I wouldn’t be supporting Hillary if I felt she would have a hyperpartisan, scortched earth governance style (because that would make her ineffective). From what I know, she has earned a reputation for bipartisan work and is respected among both parties in the Senate; she is also respected among the foreign policy and military who trust her to act prudently in handling Iraq and Afghanistan.

    There are many issues I care about, and in ’08 there is no doubt that the Democrats are the “party of ideas”. My #1 issue is universal healthcare, and regrettably Obama’s the “triangulating” politician offering “poll-tested” half-measures rather than sweeping change. Also Obama’s record involving health legislation in Illinois strikes me as underwhelming (too willing to go to bat for the insurance industry).

    So this election IMO really is about a huge opportunity that could be missed by going with a safer option. That huge opportunity is to revolutionize the American healthcare system. Obama’s the cautious reformist’s choice; Hillary offers the best chance at real change. If the price of such a victory is that the tone of politics in Washington doesn’t change dramatically, so be it. I’m far more concerned about real bread and butter issues than tone.

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