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November 15, 2007

Blumenthal to the Hillary Campaign

Sidney Blumenthal is leaving Salon to go work for the Hillary Clinton campaign. This is one of those personnel moves that I honestly find a bit confusing -- it's not clear to me how Mark penn, Sidney Blumenthal, and Dick Holbrooke can all support the same candidate. At least some of them must be reading her wrong. That said, Blumenthal's case for CLinton is fairly novel:

The Democrats at key junctures have been seduced by the illusion of anti-politics to their own detriment. Anti-politics upholds a self-righteous ideal of purity that somehow political conflict can be transcended on angels' wings. The consequences on the right of an assumption of moral superiority and hubris are apparent. Their plight stands as a cautionary tale, but not only as an object lesson for them. Still, the Republican will to power remains ferocious. The hard struggle will require the most capable political leadership, willing to undertake the most difficult tasks, and grace under pressure.

This does strike me as the best case for Hillary. If I could combine Obama's foreign policy with Edwards' populism with her experience, I'd take that bargain in an instant. Sadly, I can't. What concerns me about Clinton is that I can't wave away her foreign policy beliefs, votes, and statements. And while competent leadership is good, I've not seen much evidence that she sees her role as ideological, rather than technocratic, in nature. This is a moment to do for progressivism what Reagan did for conservatism. It's not that I don't think she's up to that task so much as I don't even know that she's interested in it.

November 15, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Well, Blumenthal is...

a) Observationally, quite a technocrat by nature, so that fits.

b) A long time friend of the Clintons and he may feel that "the real Hillary" would be a president who would sync with his beliefs once in office.
[That's not to say he's right about that, but you'd expect the personal relationship to mean he sees Hillary in a better light than some outsider like I might.]

Posted by: Meh | Nov 15, 2007 2:56:08 PM

If you combine John Edwards's populism with Obama's foreign policy and Clinton's experience, you get John Edwards.

Posted by: david mizner | Nov 15, 2007 2:56:44 PM

I'm finding it kind of hard to remember all those occasions over the last dozen years where I found myself facing a Democratic Party establishment obsessed with purity over supposedly 'pragmatic' toughness in the seeking of non-principled goals. Also, I guess it's just a bad idea for any of us ordinary folks to keep standing up for anything we believe in, because obviously this just gets in somebody's way and destroys the country. Oops, though, I guess I'm practicing "anti-politics" instead of pursuing seemingly rational goals as defined by others, so I best stop right now.

Posted by: El Cid | Nov 15, 2007 2:59:31 PM

"This is a moment to do for progressivism what Reagan did for conservatism"

Well, as I said at Matt's, I don't think so. I think it is 1960 rather than 1964. Some of the liberal elite may be ready for radical change, the country is not yet ready. Unless your politics is such that you think UHC and a withdrawal from Iraq would be radical change.

I don't know where people get the idea that this could be a watershed election. FDR's first term, he took top tax rates from 24% to 73%;LBJ ended 50+ years of Jim Crow. The next four years will not get much great legislation, for that you need Ben Nelson to be scared into acting like a Democrat. It will be a period to "heighten the contradictions".

I am starting to think HRC will be the best. After what happened to the country after Bill restrained his partisanship, I think HRC will answer the inevitable hate with partisan fury.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 15, 2007 3:03:41 PM

"If you combine John Edwards's populism with Obama's foreign policy and Clinton's experience, you get John Edwards."

One example of the problems is that the Bush criminal enterprise has flooded the executive branch with saboteurs and obstructionist, probably protected under civil service and patronage laws. Besides taking at least four years to weed some of these Repub monsters out, it will take brilliance and fury to work around them. I don't how far the enemy will go:starting forest fires, misdirecting FEMA trucks, losing paperwork and SS databases, but they will do anything legal do make the Democratic President look bad.

Edwards I don't think is up to that fight. Obama I know isn't up to it.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 15, 2007 3:11:14 PM

Of the arguments against her, I don't think "she's a technocrat" comes out strongest. People who talk with certainty of "Clinton's foreign policy" or other policies - but especially international relations - speak to conclusions I can't draw; because what strikes me as the argument against her is that we don't, really, have any idea just what it is she intends to do. We know she wants to "fight the Republican machine" and that "she's for our values" but after that, it gets vague (as if that alone weren't). That, I think is the driver's license problem, though I think on that she was actually being more clearly on a side than usual. I think if one wants real change, one has to accept that it will take time, and there may be incremental steps along the way. I don't think many progressives like that, and I think every candidate will let them down in that regard. And really, I tend to think Clinton will do it less, if only because she is someone who talks about the increments and doing what's doable. I can accept that when we get around to the general election, but for now I'd prefer my vote to reflect what I actually believe, something she doesn't really say, and which I really don't find in Edwards or Obama, either.

As for Blumenthal, Holbrooke and Penn, I think the point is that they're vaguely liberal and they like to win. What Blumenthal describes in that section you cited is a muddle to me - I don't know about politics coming on "angels wings" - but I know crass opportunism, and Blumenthal's had that for years. His star's been hitched to their wagon for a long, long time; I think the only question is what he was holding out for.

Posted by: weboy | Nov 15, 2007 3:15:09 PM

Bob,

As long as we're talking historical parallels, 2008 looks more like 1952:
- Very unpopular president (Truman) who managed to win re-election is term-limited out of office.
- US bogged down in an unpopular war that doesn't seem to be going anywhere (Korean War)

Who will be the Dem's Eisenhower?

Posted by: Robin Ozretich | Nov 15, 2007 3:23:50 PM

I don't how far the enemy will go:starting forest fires, misdirecting FEMA trucks, losing paperwork and SS databases, but they will do anything legal to make the Democratic President look bad.

Fixed that for ya. A lot of these people were put into place as explicitly partisan Republican hacks in direct violation of existing law. (Hatch Act, anyone?) Why would they stick at "legal"?

Posted by: paperwight | Nov 15, 2007 3:25:36 PM

How come that Clinton has more experience than Obama? We are not talking about Bill but his wife - right? Obama has been serving longer than her - right? Or do we mean "age" when we say "experience"? I also like that Obama calmly reminds us all that none of the candidates has had experience as president of the United Stated. Hillary has had some experience as president of the divided states?

I do not like Edward's big government policies. But I like what he does for Obama with his bad cop strategy in pointing out how "vague" Clinton is.

If anything - Clinton has a brand name due to her husband (just like Bush had a brand due to his father). But apart from that - other democrats have more or the same to show? Now a brand is important and many will be tempted to pick the old Microsoft over the young Google.. but they may be voting for an old paradigm and I hope that they are using live.com for their daily work and MSN?

Incidently, Obama praised Bill Clinton at Google yesterday?

"There is a lot to learn from Bill Clinton. One of the things Clinton did I think was recognize the moment," Obama said. "The Democrats had not rung out the excesses of the 60s and early 70s...He came in and said, you know what, 'I'm a different kind of Democrat' ... and that was a powerful message."

Obama said Democrats lose when they are "not clear about what they stand for...and end up getting defensive, instead of going on the offensive."

Another employee asked him what he should tell his friends when he is told Obama lacks enough experience to be president.

"Sergey and Larry didn't have a lot of experience starting a Fortune 100 company," Obama responded, referring to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.


Posted by: Hugo Pottisch | Nov 15, 2007 3:39:33 PM

How come that Clinton has more experience than Obama? We are not talking about Bill but his wife - right?

Yeah, I don't buy the argument that Hillary Clinton gained any "experience" when she was arranging the decorations as First Lady, any more than Laura Bush has "experience" now. We will know that feminism has succeeeded when we consider female candidates for what they have done on their own rather than what they did as "helpmate" to their husband.

Hillary Clinton's actualy "experience" for the job consists solely of her 6 years as United States Senator, in which she has (a) murdered 3,500 brave American servicemembers in Iraq and (b) done nothing else of note.

She's one of the least accomplished Senators in the entire body, and yet she's got the "experience" to be President? Sheesh.

Posted by: Dilan Esper | Nov 15, 2007 3:47:09 PM

We will know that feminism has succeeeded when we consider female candidates for what they have done on their own rather than what they did as "helpmate" to their husband.

I absolutely agree, but have been lambasted for saying it-- it's amazing how many time I've been called a misogynist after a lifetime of feminism.

In any case, we should probably decide whether 'experience' means professional experience, or life experience... lord knows Hillary's been trying to blur that distinction. But IMO it's a significant one, and what she has is the latter, in the sense that she has what seems to be a very good understanding of the political process and how the executive branch works, which is useful but still not quite the same thing as being a longtime pol herself. The funny thing is, though, that GWB was no slouch wrt that kind of experience, given his family backgroundl, and his professional political experience was basically equal to hers as well.

Posted by: latts | Nov 15, 2007 4:02:06 PM

Just an FYI Robin, Truman did not face term limits. The 22nd amendment did not apply to him. In fact he lost the New Hampshire primary to Estes Kefauver and then declared he wouldn't run for reelection.

Posted by: mad6798j | Nov 15, 2007 4:13:53 PM

the whole "seduced by the illusion of anti-politics" language basically sounds like: look, i'm an oldtime player and a cynic, and you're a fool if you think politics can be any different than it has been for time immemorial. This is a card that anyone inside the game can always play, and it's a silly card, and not true to history.

last, I don't think any of the candidates here -- Obama or Edwards -- have taken on an assumption of moral superiority or hubris. Their critique of the system is based on specific aspects of our political system that can be changed...

Posted by: eli | Nov 15, 2007 4:40:00 PM

I hardly find Reagan a positive comparison to emulate. This blog has been host to the argument several times that Reagan really wasn't good for conservatives. He raised taxes, vastly increased the size of government both fiscally and in it's reach, did nothing about social values the conservatives seem to care so much about these days, etc etc. His main success was rhetorical, and having Republicans idolize him. But policy wise, he left the country no more conservative than he started.

Posted by: Tony V | Nov 15, 2007 6:33:25 PM

At this point, I think competence is an ideology. The absolute most basic belief held by everyone in the GOP is the profound distrust of the government (coupled with the childlike trust in business . . . but I digress). Their belief system is explicitly tied to the Reaganite notion that the government is ipso facto incompetent.

In the face of twenty-odd years of this crap as a standard and accepted view, I think that, yes, competence -- and a belief that competence is possible in government -- does indeed qualify as an ideological system. Those who practice competence in government, and who maintain their belief in competence, are not mere "technocrats." They are idealists. The difference is this: they have ideals that have actually been put into practice and not found inherently wanting.

But I'd still rather have Edwards.

Posted by: collin | Nov 15, 2007 7:26:25 PM

Yeah, I don't buy the argument that Hillary Clinton gained any "experience" when she was arranging the decorations as First Lady, any more than Laura Bush has "experience" now.

Let's all not get absurd. If you've got reasons for favoring this or that candidate over Senator Clinton, say so. But suggesting her experience as first lady equates with Laura Bush's really is utterly risible. HRC was intimately involved in a policy-making role both in the White House and before that in Arkansas. As Bill Clinton famously said: vote for me and you get two for the price of one. She also possesses -- and I think this is key -- a wealth of political experience actually winning elections -- two of them at the national level. Hillary is also an accomplished lawyer with absolute first-rate academic credentials and a record of accomplishment in both the private and public sectors. Oh, and she's served in the Senate for approximately twice as long as Senator Obama.

I could live with any of the Democratic big three as president. I'm frankly having trouble making up my mind which one I'm going to vote for. But for my money, when it comes to experience, I reckon she leads among the top three candidates. (If experience is really what you're after, your best bet is probably either Biden or Richardson).

Posted by: Jasper | Nov 15, 2007 7:27:50 PM

But policy wise, he left the country no more conservative than he started.

Policywise, yes, but ideologically and culturally, he did make the country more conservative. Plus, while the conservative policies he advocated might not have been implemented, he certain caused those very ideas to become ideologically mainstream, and that was a big victory for conservatives.

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 15, 2007 8:03:17 PM

Plus, while the conservative policies he advocated might not have been implemented, he certain caused those very ideas to become ideologically mainstream, and that was a big victory for conservatives.

Reagan didn't "cause" any conservative ideas to become mainstream. On most social issues (abortion, gay rights, feminism, the environment, etc.) the country has clearly become more liberal. True, the paleoliberal dream of a scandinavian-style social-democratic economy peaked in the 1970s and is now all but dead, but that's because it is inherently flawed and was unsustainable in the face of globalization and technological advances, not because of anything Reagan did. The trend has been towards more market-oriented economic policies throughout the industrialized world. State-owned companies and industries have been privatized. Welfare benefits have been frozen or scaled back. Government regulation of private markets has been reduced. Tax rates have been lowered. And so on.

Posted by: JasonR | Nov 15, 2007 10:00:14 PM

Your are confusing Hillary's campaign tactics on foreign policy with how she would govern (similar in a way to those who thought Bush would actually be a compassionate conservative). In fact Hillary is no more likely to attack Iran or remain in Iraq than Edwards (and I say this as an Edwards supporter). The foreign policy battle in Democratic circles is much more style than substance. (The battle over domestic economic policy, otoh, is more serious, which is why I'm for Edwards.)

Posted by: tdraicer | Nov 15, 2007 11:24:35 PM

"In fact Hillary is no more likely to attack Iran or remain in Iraq than Edwards (and I say this as an Edwards supporter). The foreign policy battle in Democratic circles is much more style than substance."

The Democratic primary of 2008 is playing out like the general election of 2000. Everyone is so certain Clinton doesn't mean what she says that they will elect someone who may just mean what she says. You have concluded there are no differences between teh candidates. In 2000, everyone was so certain that there were no differences between the parties so we elected as a country (regardless of FL) someone who wouldn't be that bad. What happened with that theory? learn from history and voter mistakes of the recent past. Do that or continue to think there are no differences, and all of you can feign shock and surprise after you realize what she's been telling you all is what she meant along.

Posted by: akaison | Nov 16, 2007 1:31:18 PM

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