Sunday, April 13, 2008

Looking at Hillary Clinton as president...

From Anderson Cooper 360 Degree Blog:

April 12, 2008
Carl Bernstein’s View: A Hillary Clinton presidency
Posted: 11:01 PM ET

What will a Hillary Clinton presidency look like?

The answer by now seems obvious: It will look like her presidential campaign, which in turn looks increasingly like the first Clinton presidency.

Which is to say, high-minded ideals, lowered execution, half truths, outright lies (and imaginary flights), take-no prisoners politics, some very good policy ideas, a presidential spouse given to wallowing in anger and self-pity, and a succession of aides and surrogates pushed under the bus when things don’t go right. Which is to say, often.

And endless psychodrama: the essential Clintonian experience that mesmerizes the press, confuses the citizenry, confounds members of both parties in Congress (not to mention the Clintons themselves, at times) and pretty much keeps the rest of the world constantly amused and fixated.

Such a picture of Clinton Redux is, by definition, speculation. But it is speculation based on the best evidence at hand: the demonstrable and familiar record of Hillary and Bill Clinton coupled together in Permanent Campaign-mode for a generation, waging a continuous fight on the national political stage since 1992, an unceasing campaign for the White House, for redemption, for their ideas (sometimes) and for themselves (almost always), especially in 2008.

The basic dynamics of the campaign, except for the Clintons’ vast new-found personal wealth and its challenges, have been near-constant since they arrived in Washington: through Whitewater, health care, the battle of the budget, the culture wars, the tax returns released only under duress, the travel office, Monica, impeachment, the pardons and through Hillary Clinton’s often repugnant presidential campaign.

In many ways, the characteristic tone, secrecy, and resilience of the Clinton political march have been determined more by Hillary Clinton than by her husband, reflecting her deepest attributes and attitudes, fermented in recognition of the antipathy held against both of them, and often, the foul tactics of their enemies. As an aide put it (quoted in my book, A Woman In Charge: the Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton):

“She doesn’t look at her life as a series of crises but rather a series ofbattles. I think of her viewing herself in more heroic terms, an epiccharacter like in The Iliad, fighting battle after battle. Yes, she succumbsto victimization sometimes, in that when the truth becomestoo painful, when she is faced with the repercussions of her ownmistakes or flaws, she falls into victimhood.

But that’s a last resortand when she does allow the wallowing it’s only in the warm glowof martyrdom—as a laudable victim—a martyr in the tradition ofJoan of Arc, a martyr in the religious sense. She would muchrather play the woman warrior—whether it’s against the bimbos,the press, the other party, the other candidate, the right-wing.She’s happiest when she’s fighting, when she has identified theenemy and goes into attack mode. . . . That’s what she thrives onmore than anything—the battle.”

The latest transmutation of leadership in the campaign of Hillary Clinton for president –- Mark Penn’s departure or non-departure, be it window dressing or window cleaning –- is perhaps the best index we have of the more absurd aspects of her candidacy and evidence of its increasing bankruptcy.

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