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Posted by on May 16, 2008 in At TMV | 7 comments

Clinton’s (New?) Motivation

I enjoy Andrew Sullivan’s writing and he’s been gracious enough on occasion to link to what I write. But this post may cause him to denounce and reject me.

Andrew seems convinced that Hillary will do anything in the pursuit of power, and said pursuit is practically all that drives her.

Maybe he’s right. But I think there’s something more powerful than power that drives her, and that is her concern about her long-term image; her legacy.

I’m starting to believe image/legacy may be more important than power to her, because — after her ill-advised, ill-structured comments on working-class white folk — she has seemed to recently (and dramatically) dial down the divisive rhetoric that defined her campaign on the Appalachian trail.

Whereas before, she was all-too-quick to jump on the McCain-bashing-Obama bandwagon, she’s now jumping to Obama’s defense. Granted, her most recent defense was against Bush, not McCain, and it was a rather generic defense at that — but it remains a stark contrast to her prior behavior.

Net: Say what you want about Sen. Clinton, but she’s not entirely blind to reality. She sees the writing on the wall. And whether it’s for self-preservation or party-preservation, I think she is clearly, intentionally taking the initial steps in the required healing and re-alignment process — the first, tentative strides that will enable Obama and other party leaders to give her a plum assignment, post election, whether or not Obama wins.

And no, I don’t think said plum assignment will be the VP slot. But it might be as chair of a key Senate Committee — like Appropriations — which wouldn’t even require an Obama win in November. Or if he does take the White House, perhaps a key cabinet position, like Secretary of State.

Is that a power-grabbing move? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s just an exhausted person worried about how history will eventually write its book on her. Fact is, if she continues down this more-gracious path without reversal, I — at least — will be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on her motivation.

Sorry, Andrew.

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  • daveinboca

    l agree with your take on this. Hillary probably isn’t as eager as her hubby Bubba to do another turn in the Oval Office.

    Sullivan likes to demonize a bit and he has obsessed himself from one side of the political spectrum to the other, a la Arianna Huffington.

    Or maybe A S is just an opportunist.

  • mlhradio

    I think you are on the right track — I’ve noticed the same thing, too, and I’ve also picked up the talking heads making the exact same point as well. The tone of the Clinton campaign has changed dramatically in the past 10 days, and *especially* in the last 24-48 hours. I’m specifically talking about Hillary Clinton herself, as well as her top surrogates (i.e. those people who she has control over).

    – Before her near-loss in Indiana on May 6th, she had a heated, mostly negative campaign that was primarily focused on smearing Obama directly.
    – Beginning with her victory speech on May 6th, the tone of her message changed dramatically. After that, nearly all of the attacks on Obama stopped. In fact, she started barely mentioning Obama at all – instead focusing her energy on a two-pronged attack. The first prong was to talk about pro-Hillary stuff, a mostly positive tone about her strengths and assets. The second prong was to push HARD the idea that she is still in this race, still in to win it, and still has a possibility of winning.
    – And then, right around the Edwards endorsement this Wednesday, the tone switched again. She and her surrogates have dropped the second prong, and are focusing entirely on pro-Hillary arguments.

    One TV commentator said that, in private, some of the inner echelon of Hillary’s circle are now essentially conceding that Obama will be the nominee — and Clinton herself realizes it’s all-but-over now. Of course she oh-so-wants-it, and still thinks she’s the better choice, but I think it has finally been hammered into her head hard enough that her campaign is now more of a hope than a possibility.

    Mind you, I really hope she remains in the race for the next few weeks, and continues to run an upbeat campaign. Now her job has turned into that of reconciler, to help “talk down” some of her most vociferous of supporters, to help heal the damage she has done to the Democratic party. There’s still a whole lot of anger out there on the message boards from all sorts of Hillary dead-enders, and they’re not going to turn on a dime suddenly start loving (or at the very least tolerating) Obama — it’s going to take Hillary some time to build that bridge that will lead to a Democratic victory in November.

    I just wish that the Clinton bloggers that are so filled with hatred and bitterness would follow the lead of their own candidate. They’ve become so wrapped up with the *concept* of Clinton that they have lost sight of what Clinton is actually doing and saying. Pay close attention to how Hillary has been running her campaign these past ten days — notice her tone and demeanor — and notice the huge rift between her and many of her online supporters. The online blogs have gotten so wrapped up in their rhetoric that they stopped paying attention to what Clinton has actually been doing and saying. To those people I say, stop, take a look at the person you are supporting and idolizing, and follow her lead. She has stopped the vicious attacks, why haven’t you?

  • runasim

    People are seldom so easily classifiable, in my experience and understanding.
    Intentions are mixed motives can have more than one root cause.
    Historic figures receive treatment from diffferent biographical angles, and are revised over time.

    Maybe Hillary, too, is more than a one-dimensional character?

    Among the speculatons about the Clintons one proposition never seems to be offered: that there is also an idealistic element to their political lives.
    What if they truly believe that a Hillary predidency would be good for the US, not just for themselves?

    It seems a belief in some form of a better America is almost necessary for anyone to want to assume the presidency. It’s not a fun job!!

    As to her present shift, why not consider the possibility that she is getting the ‘good vs bad for the party message?

    The more interesting question, for me, concerns what mix of motivations are involved, and what, when all is said and done, is their vision of America as they would want it to be.

    I’ll put this post among the other Hillary write-ups I’ve read.
    But I can’t treat it as definittve, and I can’t judge where in importance it fits in.

    In the meantime, I won’t be reducing any of the candidates to simple formulas when it comes to the inner workings of their minds or their souls.

  • runasim

    “stop, take a look at the person you are supporting and idolizing, and follow her lead. She has stopped the vicious attacks, why haven’t you?”

    That is sound advice for sipporters of any candidate, not just Clinton.

  • “stop, take a look at the person you are supporting and idolizing, and follow her lead. She has stopped the vicious attacks, why haven’t you?”

    That is sound advice for sipporters of any candidate, not just Clinton.

    Does that mean that McCain advocates have free reign for attack? 🙂

  • Lynx

    I don’t at all see why your evaluation and Andrew’s are mutually exclusive. Toning down her attacks is important both as a legacy and as a power seeking measure. She knows Obama is the nominee, and if she were seen to be publicly trying to ensure that he wasn’t elected, she’d destroy not only her legacy, but any chance at good standing within the party, let alone the chance to run again for president at a later date.

    Clinton’s career isn’t at it’s end, so her “legacy” has very real consequences on her continuing career. Taking care of the first will ensure the second. Personally, since I trust her about as far as I can throw her I would bet on her doing a half-hearted effort to reconcile her supporters, while actually hoping Obama would lose, which would leave the road wide open to her in 2012 against a very elderly McCain. In fact, the only advantage I see to her being VP would be that then I know she would put her FULL effort into the election, and as much as I dislike her, I gotta admit that she’s very formidable and as the typical attack-dog VPs are expected to act as, she’d be very good.

    Personally I see her as majority whip; there’s a job tailor made for her.

  • StockBoySF

    “As to her present shift, why not consider the possibility that she is getting the ‘good vs bad for the party message?”

    I agree with runasim on this…. but I also think HIllary is looking at her own future and is aiming to be VP. Hillary may believe this is her last chance to be president. What I mean by that is that if she believes Obama will win in Nov., then in 8 years (assuming he is re-elected) she’ll probably need to run against his VP. So it’s better that she be VP to put her in a stronger position in 8 years. I don’t presume to know the inner workings of Hillary’s mind but I think it’s reasonable to consider the options in 8 years and put one’s self in a position to work toward one’s goal.

    I think it’s great that Hillary is toning down her rhetoric against Obama because I think she realizes he has great appeal. This toning down is the first step to tying her fate to Obama’s which suggests that she won’t sabotage him in Nov. so she can run in 2012.

    Even if she doesn’t become the VP she has enough clout and leverage to become the second most powerful Democrat (behind Obama if he’s prez).

    Much better to be the second most powerful Dem under a Dem prez than the most powerful Dem under a Republican prez.

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