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Monday, March 10, 2008

More Schizophrenia from the Clinton Campaign. The Cost? Democrats Success Post November.

I find it hard to believe that no one in the Hillary campaign management has seen The Contender, a 2000 political thriller starring Joan Allen that asked audiences, what would happen if a woman became president? Yet this movie wasn’t about a Presidential campaign. Rather the premise was built upon the unexpected death of the Vice President and the political fallout of President’s (played by the ever charming and handsome Jeff Bridges) decision to select Joan’s character as the Veep, leading to Senate Confirmation fights, intrigue and Richard Dreyfuss rendering scenery asunder with his teeth. Throughout the film Allen’s qualification for Vice President are brushed under the rug as irrelevant. Rather, the drama circles around her qualification/worthiness to ascend to President of the United States and the pre-9/11 “controversy” of proposing that a woman could be Prez. Indeed, no President would choose a Vice President unless they genuinely believed them prepared to assume the Presidency at a moments notice.

Yet as they have done throughout 2008, the Clinton camp is sending out a series of contradictory messages about Barack Obama and this later bout of bi-polar campaigning has begun to target Democrat’s chances to win the white house. Both Bill and Hillary have begun to make entreaties to the Obama camp, suggesting they would love to see him on the ticket as Vice President. Ignoring the audacity of proposing such a “compromise” when behind in the popular vote, pledged delegates and state count, the campaign’s “hints” at a joint ticket are often paired with a series of arguments as to why Obama is unqualified to be President. Yes, seriously. Are the Clintons unaware that the most important function of the Vice President is that they are next in line for the Presidency? This inability to plan past next week is further evidence of the Clintons “win at all costs” strategy.

The problem for Hillary is that she does not realize the painful truth that she would be a much more effective vice president than Barack Obama would. As my mom said so eloquently over dinner last night, “Presidents are *supposed* to inspire. Why would the Party of F.D.R and J.F.K try and downplay the importance of inspirational rhetoric from the White House? Hillary is just mad because she’s a technocrat, not a leader.” I could not have put it better myself. As President of the Senate and, no doubt, the most powerful VP since Dick Cheney, Clinton would burn the midnight, oil and fight in all the ways necessary to get Senators to bend to her will. But she can not hope to employ the kinds of popular capital from Americans that will be critical to shout down the Pentagon’s inevitable resistance to withdrawal. More importantly, as the U.S. enters a recession and the Democrats hinge their economic plan on short term sacrifice in the form of taxation in order to reap benefits long term from a “green” reconstruction of American economic systems, a President who inspires people towards loftier long term goals is required. In the Second New Deal and into World War II, FDR established what historian Mark Leff calls the “rhetoric of sacrifice” an intense multi level P.R. effort that linked Americans economic sacrifices (Buy war bonds! Save rubber! Don’t eat sugar!) with long term victory overseas and increasedprosperity at home. And it worked. Defying decades of ineffective Presidents, F.D.R was able to motivate the American people to fix the Depression and win the war by inspiring them. Yet as the Clinton campaign continues to limit the impact of inspirational rhetoric, argue that John McCain is more qualified to be President than Barack Obama they hogtie the Democratic agenda and ensure that either an Obama or Clinton presidency will be unable to “work” or “hope” for substantive change.