Friday, June 6, 2008

Please, No. I Beg You.

Apparently, I'm an Obamacan.

Since I'm all high school, and whatnot, I figger I better start gettin' all political like the cool kids do. Try an' up my intellectual quotient by using words like "quotient." So here's my plea to Obama to choose someone, anyone, other than Hillary Clinton for a running mate.

I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. I saw him speak at Quincy Market in Boston, and I was seduced by the charm and charisma. I believed in the "change" mantra. I was deeply immersed in college campus life and had wholeheartedly accepted the notion that justice of every type can and must be legislated by a strong Federal government. I later came to believe that all that a strong Federal government can do effectively is grow, but I won't blame that on a Clinton.

I spent 1998 repeating the following sentence over and over again: "He is the chief law enforcement officer in the nation, and he perjured himself and suborned perjury of others in order to avoid personal liability in a civil lawsuit brought against him by a private citizen." To which the reply was always given: "Sex! Witch hunt! Witch hunt! Sex! Sex! Sex!"

1998 was the culmination of a period of years during which I began to believe that there was no real Bill Clinton. There was no substance beneath the style. He would do anything and say anything to gain and maintain power. He would change his position at the slightest indication that it had not been well-received by some portion of what he deemed to be an important constituency. His core beliefs were always poll-driven and sound-bite crafted. He was a hollow man.

When Hillary Clinton stood by her man while he hemmed and hawed about what the definition of "is" was, I began to believe that she was much as he was. Then she decided to run for the Senate seat vacated by New York Democrat Moynihan. New York, I thought? Isn't she from Arkansas? Huh? Could it be that this is more about the opportunity for her? Could it be that she was more than willing to answer the Democratic Party's plea for her to keep the seat from falling into Republican hands? Isn't something like a Senate seat a necessary step for her on her inevitable quest for the Presidency? She had "shared" the Presidency with Bill, and I didn't think it was too great a leap of imagination to think that she saw it as her destiny to be the first female President.

I saw her speak at the Ann Richards Memorial, and I almost came away with a positive perception of her for once. She was eloquent. She was funny. She was likeable and self-deprecating. But she was also speaking to a room full of people who were there to pay homage to a grande dame of the Democratic Party. They were her people, and they were full of love and nostalgia and all manner of good feelings. And it wasn't televised. Hillary needn't have worried about spin or image or impact or polls. It was the most natural I've ever seen her.

That's why I beg Obama to choose someone else. I watched his Philadelphia speech after the first time that Reverend Wright was splashed across our TV's, and I was moved. I was amazed. I accepted the notion that he was a different kind of politician, one who spoke what he believed to be the truth regardless of the political implications that were no doubt calculated down to five or six decimal places by his advisors. He calmly explored difficult and dangerous and complicated issues, and he trusted us to come along with him on the journey. He spoke like a man sitting in a room and talking with a peer. He appeared to have faith in himself and faith in us. And I was hooked.

Excepting that they are both members of the same party, Hillary Clinton is the antithesis of Barack Obama. She may have faith in herself, but it's a faith in her destiny, her right to a place in the history books. There is no self for her to have faith in. When the news said that she was too soft, she got tough. When they said she was too tough, she lightened up. She is a chameleon trying desperately to match the ever-changing background of public perception. Neither can she have faith in us. We are here to be manipulated by those with the nerve and the skill to do so, so how can we be trusted?

I don't know why Obama wants to President; I don't want to think about it too long or I will begin to remember how I felt about Bill Clinton in 1992. But if he is what he seems to be, then he cannot seriously consider Hillary Clinton for his running mate. Choosing her could only be the result of a political calculation, an inherent refutation of the core themes of his campaign. So please, Mr. Obama, please: don't break my heart. Don't crush my fragile seedling of hope as it pokes its tiny green shoot up from the barren landscape of hopelessness, scorched into a nearly lifeless moonscape through the last sixteen years of Presidential politics. Please, Mr. Obama? Please?


anniemcq said...

While your blog may be high school, I consider this to be the most well thought out argument against Hillary that I have come across. I think most politicians are fairly hollow. As my husband's grandfather used to say "there's not a dime's difference between any of them". Obama, though, seems to built from something new, and it makes me tingle a bit to think about the possibility that our next president wouldn't be beholden to the winds of opinion. My hope is for James Webb. But if he goes with Hillary, I'll buckle down and do it. Because I will not vote for John McCain.

This was truly well written Rodius. Hats off, friend.

Franklin5 said...

Well, my blog earned only an elementary-school rating. Keep this in mind as I try to muck through my thoughts on this topic, which you've addressed so eloquently.

I adored Bill Clinton; admired Hillary's intellect, but never fully trusted her. Fretted from the beginning that her role as a presidential candidate would only fracture the Democrats and embolden the Republicans. Saw red when it seemed to me that her hubris and ambition were worth more to her than the apparent common good.

Obama intrigued me immediately. And in short order, convinced me that, given the opportunity, he'll lead the nation with integrity and intelligence, and make genuine progress toward uniting a divided, wounded populace. I understand your reluctance to examine him too closely for fear of finding flaws; I have no doubt that he's imperfect, but I genuinely believe that he's our best, strongest hope.

Having said all that, I say this: while I was watching Hillary's concession speech this afternoon, my three-year-old daughter climbed into my lap. And I'm not sure I can fully explain the effect it had on me, seeing her defeat through Katie's eyes.

Coming from an admittedly emotional place, I want Katie to see a woman hold the highest position in the land. I want her to believe that she can be anything she chooses to be. I want her to grow up with total confidence that she is every bit as strong, capable and smart as her brothers, plus some.

I know I can't be the only American who feels this way. I worry that, after this long and grueling process, the millions of voters who'd pledged their allegiance and their resources to Hillary will be reticent to swing their support to Obama.

But more than anything, I get dizzy at the potential that an Obama-HRC dream ticket could wield. If they can put aside pride and dissent and combine their strengths to the betterment of this country, I think even the crustiest cynics might start to believe that anything's possible.

It's incredibly scattered, I know. It's also overly emotional, highly fallible, and ultimately implausible, but there you have it: my argument for adding HRC to the ticket, with all due respect to yours.

You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. ;)

Anonymous said...

I guess my initial response to this is, "So what?"

By that, I do not mean "so what?" to your writing or opposition to HRC, rather that your opposition to her lies with her political maneuvering. Perhaps it's jaded, but my view is that you cannot get to the highest political position in our country without relying on polls and public opinion and pandering to the greatest common denominator. If your greatest criticism of Clinton is that she's a chameleon, well, I don't see that as much of a criticism at all. We accept it from the male candidates as the status quo, but when a woman does it, she's untrustworthy? I cry foul.

I love Obama, but I have no illusions nor do I think I put him on too big a pedestal. I love him because I think he gives hope to people less jaded than myself. I love him because I agree with the vast majority of his policies. I love him because he represents how far this country has come. But I have no doubt that he will still do what it takes to win, even if his game is played on a different field. I expect no less from him than a calculated gamble in choosing his VP as to what will bring him more votes - and I think he will choose, or not choose, HRC based on this equation. And I have no problem with that.

Politics is a game. It sucks, and it's inspiring when a candidate comes along every 30 or 40 years that makes us THINK that they play the game less than others...but at the end of the day, I think the best strategy is to see who is most likely to work towards your agenda, and hope they get in. I think to view it any other way is to set an impossible standard for our elected officials to live up to.

I, Rodius said...

Thanks, amcq. Well thought out and eloquent it ain't, but I appreciate the thought.

franklin5, I can't see HRC as the Great White Hope of Womanhood. I just can't.

MVM, then I guess I'll have to opt out entirely and go with Bob Barr. But I so want to believe that Obama really is different. National health care is so far away from what I've learned to think of as my political ideals over the past 12-15 years, I can't possibly consider HRC on an ideological level. I'm almost willing to accept Obama on a personal level that I can ignore the ideology. I guess I better go back to ideology. But there is no one, absolutely no one, who actually represents my ideology. Then what?

Anonymous said...

Well, then, you're screwed.

No, I mean...there is never going to be a candidate who perfectly endorses your views. I don't like that Obama is so weak regarding gay marriage. I also think NCLB has a LOT more problems than just "poor funding". Etc. But at the end of the day, he's a HELL of a lot closer than McCain.

I personally am opposed to voting for a candidate because you like them better (see my cult of personality post) and likewise, not voting for a candidate because you don't like them. That seems so junior high-ish to me.

Unless, of course, it is a Democrat that you are voting for because you like his or her personality better. In that case, be my guest.

Saint Richard said...

I, too, would be disappointed if Obama choose Hilary as his VP. I think that the negatives of having her on the ticket would outweigh the positives. Ultimately, though, I hope that there are very few people who vote for a President based on his/her choice for VP.

As near as I can tell, there are three reasons to select a VP.

1) Heal the wounds. In a hotly contested primary, choosing the runner-up is a good way to show respect for the people who voted against you, and perhaps gain their support in the coming election.

2) Fill the void. If a candidate appears to be lacking in a particular area, they could choose someone who appears to shore up that weakness.

3) Do no harm. Pick someone who will not embarrass you before November 2.

4) I suppose there is a 4th reason too...To carry a swing state. Though I'm pretty sure the statistics do not bode well for this tactic.

Obama's lack of experience is clearly the biggest red flag in his campaign, and I believe/hope he will try to address this with his Vice Presidential pick. Maybe Sam Nunn, Wes Clarke or Kathleen Sebelius.

But Hillary would satisfy both #1 and #2, wouldn't she? So...I couldn't really fault Barack for choosing Hillary. I'd just prefer he didn't.

To be perfectly honest, I would be more disappointed in Obama if he choose to go with #3. John Edwards, for example, would be choice that wouldn't hurt him...and that's just lame. We don't need another Dan Quayle, thank you very little. Edwards didn't even help Kerry win his own state.

Anne said...

I feel a little like the outsider on this post, but my friends and I have been discussing this quite a bit lately. There was an interesting article in newsweek (or actually online, of course I can't find it now to link here) that said something to the effect of, Hillary doesn't want VP, and Barack does not want her to be VP, but that he could offer it to her (with the agreement that she will turn it down) for the sake of uniting the party and gaining the support of HRC's supporters. I'd like to see Bill Richardson or Tom Vilsack but I couldn't be more clueless as to who he will land on.

I don't love Barack (but I used to. I'm a 25 year old Democrat from Chicago. I am supposed to love him, right?) I don't know, I wish he had more experience. I think he can do it, and I hope he beats McCain. More than that I hope he stacks his cabinet with the smartest, most experienced people he can find. America is depending on 2009!

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