Monday, January 07, 2008

The Lame Candidacy

Politico has several striking items about the Clinton campaign. First, Ben Smith reports Clinton was on the edge of tears at an appearance.

And with audible frustration and disbelief, she drew the contrast between her experience and Sen. Barack Obama's that suggests that her campaign's current message -- the question of who is ready -- matches her profound sense that she alone is ready for the job.

Second, Roger Simon reports that Obama is mesmerizing his crowds while Clinton is boring them.

Obama delivered a compelling, almost mesmerizing, speech, did not talk about any issue in detail and took no questions. His event lasted just over half an hour.

Clinton talked about issue after issue in almost mind-numbing detail and answered question after question in an event that lasted more than an hour and a half.

Both drew large crowds. But Clinton’s crowd was much smaller at the end of her speech than at the beginning.

I agree with Alexander Marriott's assessment of Clinton's campaign:

What a lame candidacy. Her only claim to fame, that which led directly to her senate seat and all of this vaunted experience she now claims is so vital, is that she was a former President's wife. Big deal. Under that logic, Laura Bush should become President, she has the most relevant reservoir of recent experience to impart to the job. Seven years in the Senate however, actually constitutes legitimate experience that should not be entirely discounted, but her opponents also have Senate experience (Obama nearly three years, Edwards six) not to mention prior local political experience in the case of Obama. This is mostly irrelevant anyway, "experience" in holding prior offices has never been an accurate judge of competency in the presidency.

The more I think about it, the more "experience" looks like a foolish thing to put front and center in a campaign, even by statist standards. What are some of the things people look for in presidential candidate?

What do you believe in? What are your ideals? What are your values?

What is your vision for America?

What are the two or three big things you want to do?

The answers to these questions excite and motivate people. Obama excites his crowds because, though his rhetoric is vague and without meaning, he speaks of ideals. He thrills young people especially. Experience speaks to none of this; it is merely a job qualification.

Clinton seems to be making the same mistake Dukakis made in '88 by focusing on competence and boring people with wonkish policy details.

Clinton's problem is the Democrat Party's main problem since the McGovern debacle of 1972: they cannot honestly campaign for their ideals because American voters, when they understand the left's ideals clearly, do not want them. Americans do not want more government spending, higher taxes and a foreign policy of appeasement. The Democratic Leadership Council was created to help Democrats find ways to moderate their ideals and trick Americans into voting Democrat.

(By coincidence McGovern published an editorial today urging the impeachment of George W. Bush. Is it a secret plot by Karl Rove to keep McGovern in the news, reminding voters of everything that is wrong with the Democrats since the rise of the New Left?)

From what I understand, political campaigns spend a great deal of money having ideas "focus grouped." I would guess some highly paid expert came back from the focus groups and advised Clinton to run on experience. Little did she know she would be up against a rival Democrat who thrills crowds with idealistic, floating rhetoric sans meaning. Apparently, Clinton didn't realize that the trick is to talk about ideals without actually saying what they are. She did not understand that Democrats are now dumb enough, after decades of government education, to hoot and holler over empty platitudes.

There is an ethical-epistemological principle we can draw from this: Dishonesty makes you stupid.

There is no disconnect between reality and what an honest man says. An honest candidate would quickly see what needs to be done -- without spending a dime on consultants -- and just speak "from the heart." An honest candidate would talk about his ideals and how they will make America free and prosperous and strong.

Instead, Hillary Clinton is reduced to repeating in "frustration and disbelief" and on the verge of tears her focus-grouped mantra of "experience."

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