Dear Hillary: What, Pray Tell, Is It About?


She came, she saw and she fell still further behind.

The results of the North Carolina and Indiana primaries were pretty much preordained — a Barack Obama victory in the Tar Heel State by a large margin and a Hillary Clinton victory in the Hoosier State by a narrow margin. That the results were exactly that is a repudiation of Clinton’s latest and, by my count, fourth strategy in the last five months, this one to treat voters like idiots.

The results also should be Clinton’s final repudiation.

This, of course, is because it is mathematically impossible for Clinton to catch up to Obama in popular votes, pledged delegate votes, opinion-poll positives, contributions and endorsements. Obama will soon eclipse Clinton in superdelegate votes, as well, and has added 21 of the 32 who have jumped off the fence since the Bitter Small Town State primary on April 22.

Some 187 pledged delegates, nearly half of the 404 in the remaining primaries, were in play yesterday.

Obama will win a comfortable majority of those delegates, meaning that he needs about one-third of all remaining delegates to get to 2,025, the number needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton needs about two-thirds of all remaining delegates to just draw even with Obama.

Yet with 90 percent of the pledged delegates now chosen, Clinton is once again picking up those goal posts, slinging them onto her itty-bitty shoulders (come on, Rush, give the nice lady a hand and a few bucks!) and is slogging on. This is not for the good of party or the nation, as she would have us believe, but because she cannot face up to the reality that she squandered pretty much a sure thing by engaging in the kind of divisive and fear mongering politics of which change-thirsty Americans are so fricking sick and tired.

Meanwhile, Obama has determinedly if sometimes shakily stuck to the only strategy he has needed — staying on message, while Clinton has motored on to yet another new strategy.

There was the hubristic I’m The Incumbent Strategy that proved to be so shortsighted as Obama began nipping at her Miu Mius before the first primary vote was cast. Then there was the short-lived I’m A Policy Wonk Strategy after she “found” her voice following the New Hampshire primary. As Obama gained momentum, this was supplanted by the Race-Baiting Strategy, which also came a cropper because the idea that politics is a nasty business so people should vote for the nasty candidate just didn’t seem to resonate.

And now the Voters Are Idiots Strategy in which Clinton panders with a gas-tax holiday scheme that no economist will touch, emptily threatens to destroy OPEC, demands that the good burghers of Guam be given the right to vote although they aren’t U.S. citizens, and prattles that elitists are what ails America.

How desperate is Clinton? So desperate that the campaign strategist who replaced the late unlamented Mark Penn said the other day that it’s not about votes received or delegates pledged anymore.

“We don’t think this is just going to be about some numerical metric,” intoned a solemn Geoff Garin.

What then, pray tell, is it about?

A friend remarks that Hillary Clinton is Bill Clinton without the charm. True, but it’s not that simple. As someone who once enthusiastically supported her 1993 universal health-care plan but concluded that she was her own worst enemy, who enthused over and voted twice for her co-president, who also turned out to be his own worst enemy, I believe that what it is about is an inability to be honest with herself. Not exactly an admirable trait for someone desperate to spend the next eight years sleeping next to a red phone, if not next to Bubba.


I have harped ad nauseam this campaign season about how extraordinary it is that Hillary Clinton not only gave her philandering husband a free pass but spearheaded his defense. (The press, of course, has given her a free pass on the issue, as well.) Who did not come under sniper fire in Bosnia but believed that she had until confronted with a video tape of her unremarkable arrival there. Who knew that the gas-tax holiday was a lousy idea but having blurted it out doubled down and wouldn’t retreat. Who misrepresents the facts and then acts deeply offended when confronted with the record.

I am not a psychiatrist nor do I play one on TV. But I believe that Clinton’s inability to be honest with herself is because she has never figured out who that self is.

Or perhaps she decided that mastering the macho man art of American politics — as opposed to championing a better kind of politics — was good enough. History will show that this was an arrogant miscalculation, and in the end she even managed to crap all over the Clinton legacy of attracting blacks not because Barack was blacker than Bill but because she and her husband were revealed to be cynical frauds.

Hillary Clinton gets some slack as a woman who spent years banging her head against the glass ceiling while grappling with the demands of motherhood. But once she made the decision to run for the Senate and then president instead of going home to Chappaqua, she owed it to us to get a grip on who the heck she is and what the heck she stands for.

That Hillary Clinton has not figured out either — and has repeatedly changed her tune as a chameleon changes its colors to stay alive — is not only unpresidential, it is very sad.

  • StockBoySF

    “….inability to be honest with herself…”. And “That Hillary Clinton has not figured out either — and has repeatedly changed her tune as a chameleon changes its colors to stay alive — is not only unpresidential, it is very sad.”

    Shaun, I don’t think it’s a matter of HIllary not knowing herself and what she stands for. I think Hillary is a dyed in the wool politician and she played the same game as most politicians do. She played to the audience du jour, trying on new identities and messages to find the winning match for the race.

    This is what she (and McCain) do not understand about Obama’s promise of change. What many American people hunger for is not just a change in policies (and party control), but many Americans want a change in tone, substance and style.

    Obama’s greatest strength is his authenticity (though he’s not perfect in that regard, but he’s more so than Hill or McCain). And I think Obama is authentic because he struggled with his identity and discovered himself and his voice years ago. Obama truly views government as being for the people (rather than as a reward to share with friend$). Obama has his beliefs and they resonate with so many Americans.

    If Obama had not entered the race I would have whole-heartedly supported Hillary, but Obama showed us what is possible and next to his authenticity HIllary (as will McCain in the general election) look like the pandering, do-and-say-anything-necessary-to-become-president typical politician. This atmosphere of pandering politics is all she knows, unfortunately. I heard many of her speeches and was impressed by her. But I also didn’t know what she was about. On the one hand I would hope politicians would grow and learn from mistakes, so changing one’s position does not give me problems. But on the other hand there’s changing one’s positions because it’s politically convenient. While I forgave Hillary her 2003 Iraq vote with no qualms, there are plenty of other instances where I thought she was just changing her position because that’s the way the wind was blowing. Obama on the other hand took some unpopular positions and stuck by them. And was eventually proven right. It takes guts and courage to do that. But he is a clear thinker because he tries to understand the situation for what it is, rather than try to figure out how any given situation helps (or hurts) him and how to spin it.

    So it’s not that Hillary doesn’t know herself (I think she does), it’s that Hillary played the politician’s game of changing her tune to fit the circumstance so much that in the end no one knows what she stands for.

  • JSpencer

    Right on the mark observations you guys. One of the good things to have come from this extended thrashing has been the opportunity to see individual character traits come to the surface which might have otherwise been unrevealed.

  • runasim

    I don’t dismiss any of the speculative analyses offered. I think there is significat truth in them. However, I bristle mightily at the absolute assurence with which this sort of mind reading game is played. No person can be reduced to a simple formula, especially not when the components of the formula are gleaned only from a distance so vast that it depends only on the clues provided through media reports and the narrow scope of the publically visible face.

    Tthere are serious alternative subtexts to be considered.
    The worst politician can simultaneously be totally wrong and, absolutely and selflessly devoted to what he/she believes to be in the best interests of the country.
    Hillary really is a politcy wonk, and she is better at having data and specifics at the fingertips of her mind. Whether her hard sell or Obama’s soft sell will turn out to be better at getting past the Republican blocade,can only be determined by the future. That’s a judgment call, not an issue of ethics. Hillary could well just be making her judgment call

    The subject of race, as odious as it may be, can not be wished away. .You can place a safe bet that race will be an even bigger issue in Nobember. Admitting it publically is no more racist than noticing the color of someone’s skin. It is only realistic to try to calculate how that will play out.

    Shaun may be right in a general way, but a little modesty would make the conclusions more credible to me. I don’t trust simplistic caricature sketches.

    Also, I can not forget the neurotic reaction to Hillary before she had the time to show what she was as a canididate in her own right. It’s not as if her critics are free of serious and blinding biases.

    My caution becomes bitter opposition when it comes to delving into the Clinton marriage. No one can know what the private relationship between other people really consists of. Imposing one’s own preferance is no better than insisting that everyone have 2.5 children. Butt out!

    When feminism is brought in, my opposition becomes rage. The goal of feminism is to have equality, which means having free and uncoerced choice. It does not mean having to live up to the stereotype in someone else’s mind. Beware of the bigoty in stereotypical expectations!

  • shaun


    Perhaps some perspective would help. I have observed Hillary and Bill Clinton for 15 years. I have spoken to both, including a fairly long conversation with Hillary. I make my observations and my armchair psychoanalysis from long experience..

    Hillary Clinton had a choice: More of the same bullsh*t or a new path. Her candidacy is sinking like a stone because the choice she made is not the choice a majority of Democrats and Independents wanted her to make. And doncha just love her statement that it would be just swell if 65 million Iranians were obliterated? Spoken like a true feminist.

    Besides which, you need to get off of your high horse regarding Hillary’s “feminism.” Hillary not only represents an absolutist old-school feminism, but she has even betrayed these sisters. It is not for nothing that most of her woman supporters are eligible for AARP benefits.

    There will be a woman president but it won’t be Hillary Clinton and it won’t be any of her sisters. You miss the irony of the fact that it is Barack Obama with his style of politics and message and not Hillary with her politics of polarization of demonization who will make that happen.

    Get over it.

  • StockBoySF

    OK, so a little more color from me….

    I have never spoken with either Clinton, rather I make my decision (like almost everyone else in this country) based on what I see in her speeches and the legislation she supports in Congress.

    On the issue of her supporting philandering Bill…. I have great respect for that. So many people walk out of marriages at the slightest sign of trouble. Having said that, I also acknowledge that one reason might have been a political calculation, but no matter, she still held the marriage together.

    On the issue of feminism…. she is the product of yesteryear and somewhat out of step with today’s feminism. She may not be the best but she’s not the worst. On this I am neutral towards her.

    Go Obama!

  • runasim

    Shaun and Stockboy,

    I have no problem with making observations and judging what you see. That’s what we all do; it’s how we live. As I said, I agree with most of what you two said.

    My divergence comes when there is no caution in ascribing motivation to what you see.or in an exercise in mind-reading. I enjoy pretend psychological exercises myself. At times, they can lead to useful insights. I do object, however, when there is no discernible demarcation between the theory of a psychological assignment and the supposition that what someone theorizes is actually true-to-life. This is the diffeence between saying. ‘X fits the profile of cleptomania’ and ‘X is a cleptomaniac.’, I’m quibbling. I know, but when it comes to real poeple, quibbling is in order. It’s horrifying to think what the children of famous people read and hear in the media along these lines.

    STOCKBOY, the additions of your ‘color’ is noted and appreciated.

    On femnism, it’s funnly that two men are trying to give a lifelong female feminist (that would be me) lessons in feminism.

    FYI, the only thing femnists agree on is what I said, i.e. the right to uncoerced choice. From day one, feninists have been splintered into various divergent groups.
    It’s not a matter of yesterday vs. today, in the least,, as neither then nor now, has there been a single model.
    So, I follow the same rule on feminism as in oher areas: no streotypes.– not yours, not anyone’s. Give the woman freedom of choice and let her choose
    As a parallel, I refer to ‘not black enough’.

  • StockBoySF

    runasim, I apologize if it sounded like I was giving you a lesson on feminism. My intent was to give my impression of Clinton and feminism. I agree wholeheartedly with you: the right to uncoerced choice (which by the way is not just a feminist view).

    BTW: I love your posts and I always enjoy reading them, you’re very thoughtful and respectful- thanks!