Matt Bai on Bill and Hillary:

This may be the defining difference between the candidacies of Bill Clinton and his wife, between Clintonism and Hillaryism, if such a thing can be said to exist. Like most successful outsiders, Bill Clinton directly challenged the status quo of both his party and the country, arguing that such a tumultuous moment demanded more than two stark ideologies better suited to the past. By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s campaign to this point has been mostly about restoring an old status quo; she holds herself up as the best chance Democrats have to end eight years of Bush’s “radical experiment” and to return to the point where her husband left off. It has been a strong but safe campaign, full of nondescript slogans (“I’m In to Win!” “The Change We Need!”) and familiar, if worthy, policy prescriptions. That might be a shrewd primary strategy, but winning a general election could well require a more inspiring rationale. Nonincumbents who go on to win the White House almost always take some greater risk along the way, promising changes more profound — if potentially more divisive — than a return to normalcy. The reformer runs great danger. The more cautious candidate merely runs.

A vote for Hillary is not a vote for change — it’s a vote for the 90’s and a vote for a promise that she won’t be any different than her husband if she’s elected. To some Democrats, this may be exactly what they want. I know some Democrats who would vote Bill in again if they could. But this world isn’t the same as in 1992. We need a President who is capable of dealing with the new problems and challenges we face in this changing world. If you are someone whose main objective is radical change from the policies of George W. Bush, then you will get that from Obama and Edwards. Hillary is a candidate who is less likely to step out and take political risks. If you liked the first two Clinton terms, then Hillary’s your girl. The Clintons need to stop thinking about the past, and start thinking about the future, because Obama’s still out there.

low expectations

The best argument for Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani is that Hillary (or Rudy) would be the candidate most likely to beat the other in a general election matchup…at least you would think so from the press coverage they get. Republicans are told that Giuliani is the only Republican candidate who might possibly be able to beat HER.  Because of this “fact”, we shouldn’t care about his lack of social conservative credentials or his messy personal life, or that being mayor of NYC doesn’t automatically qualify him to be president of the United States.  We might be giving up a whole bunch of red states to (maybe) gain a few blue ones if Giuliani is our candidate.  That’s ok with us, as long as we have a chance to beat Hillary, right?

There is no great love for Hillary out there as the Democrats’ preferred candidate. The netroots gravitate toward Edwards, or one of the other “no chance” candidates.  Those disenchanted with the status quo or Washington insiders have their guy in Obama.  But until that debate where we saw Hillary stumble just a little bit, many of us bought into Hillary’s inevitability as the Dem nominee. It’s still difficult to see how Obama can gain enough ground to knock her off, but several wins in early primary states, such as Iowa, can throw a monkey wrench into Hillary’s coronation plans. 

Obama does have the opportunity to pull this off as Democrats start to doubt that Hillary is their strongest possible nominee. That’s the whole point of all these increasingly sharp attacks on Hillary’s experience (or lack thereof) — to make them doubt her viability.  Maybe it will work.  Maybe not.  Hillary has experience where it counts with Democrats — successfully fending off Republican attacks.  This should be enough to get her to the Democratic nomination.

Is this the kind of contest we want?  Would we be satisfied with a contest between two candidates each party nominates by default?  Wouldn’t we rather nominate candidates with the best vision for the country, and the two people who we feel have the best ideas to solve the country’s problems?  Hillary and Rudy may be those two candidates.  But we don’t seem to care much about vision and ideas, just as long as our candidate is the most electable. It’s the most practical way to look at the election, but there’s no joy in the choice.

Jason Zengerle explores the electability argument further in New York Magazine.


Tony Blankley asks this question:

“Is the national media actually going to accept without even a murmur of skepticism Hillary Clinton’s claim to possess all the experience gained by her husband as president?”

Yes they are. It’s easier to ignore that little detail when Hillary’s chief rivals for the Democratic nomination don’t challenge her on taking credit for the work of the Clinton administration. Barack Obama and John Edwards don’t want to get into a discussion about experience, since they both have less then she does, even if you don’t count her time as co-president. Now if Joe Biden and Chris Dodd continue to bring the subject up, perhaps she will be forced to address it. We need to know what qualifications she has, other than being an inconsequential junior senator from New York whose husband used to be President of the United States.

This kind of resume by osmosis doesn’t usually happen in the business world. How many spouses of CEOs have acquired the knowledge to replace their husbands when they step down or retire? I would say — not very many. So why is it Hillary gets any credit for the Clinton years? We had only one (official) President during the Clinton administration. The person who was elected to that post was Hillary’s husband.

If she takes credit for Bill’s accomplishments, will she also take the blame for his failures? Inquiring minds want to know.

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get over it

If you want to read about how all those mean ol’ men beat up on poor defenseless Hillary,  feel free to read what Margaret Carlson and the NYT’s Gail Collins had to say about that last debate. If you want to hear whining about how unfair they are being when Russert dares to ask her tough questions and when Edwards, Obama, and Dodd call her on her inability to give a straight answer to those questions  — it won’t be difficult for you to find articles about that either. This strategy may have worked with Rick Lazio.  It’s not going to work this time.  If Hillary can’t answer tough questions, if she can’t make tough decisions without waffling a few times, and if she can’t take a principled stand on any important issue facing our country today, maybe she would be better off staying in the kitchen and baking cookies (or doing whatever feminists do when they are not running for office).  Her problem is not that she is female.  It’s certainly not that she can’t handle whatever abuse she gets, whether it’s because she’s a woman, or because she is the frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race.   She can handle it because she has the Clinton machine behind her spinning valid criticisms into personal attacks.

Hillary chose this battle.  Maybe she expected it to be an easier ride than it has been for her so far, but surely she had to know that the harder questions were coming at some point. She knew the risks involved, and she decided to take that chance anyway.  Politics is an ugly business.  She should know this better than just about anyone.  If she can’t stand up to your Democratic opponents (who weren’t all that close to mortally wounding her) and Tim Russert, that raises some serious questions in my mind.  She survived the debate without much damage inflicted from Obama and Edwards, but her uneven performance in the latter half is more her fault than theirs.  She does herself no good by blaming others for her own mistakes.  Unfortunately, this will not stop her from getting the nomination, but she can be stopped.   We have a good chance to take advantage of her mistakes in the general election.  We just need someone who knows how to do it.

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not invincible

hillary.jpgHillary showed signs of weakness in Tuesday’s Democratic debate, but even though Edwards and Obama landed a few soft punches, they didn’t do any lasting damage. This could change if they keep up the pressure, because Hillary showed that she does have a breaking point, and that it was possible to throw her off of her game.

Dan Balz in the Washington Post blog:

Clinton was on the defensive from beginning to end on Tuesday, both from the moderators — Brian Williams, the NBC anchor, and Tim Russert, host of NBC’s “Meet The Press” — and from her rivals. John Edwards was the most aggressive challenger to Clinton on Tuesday, but Barack Obama and Chris Dodd made telling points against her as well.

The storyline they sought to write was of an evasive front-runner who, for reasons of political calculation, caution or lack of candor, was unwilling to say what she really believes about everything from Social Security to the release of documents from her husband’s administration to whether illegal immigrants should be eligible for drivers licenses.

At times she was typically strong in defending her positions, even if they run counter to the views of many Democratic voters. That was the case on Iran, where she explained her vote for a measure that her rivals said provided President Bush with a legislative rationale to go to war with the Iranians. At other times, however, she was defensive, evasive or both.

If Hillary wants to take credit for the accomplishments of her husband’s administration, it would be wise for her to have some evidence of what exactly her role was as First Lady. What part did she play? What policies does she deserve credit (or blame) for? These are things that we could find out if she asks Bill to unseal those Presidential records. After all, that’s part of the resume she’s pushing as her qualifications for being President. She hasn’t really distinguished herself as a Senator, and has no signature legislation to show for her time there. It is about time for her opponents to call attention to this, and I’m glad that Russert asked the question to give them the opportunity to comment on the subject.

Edwards did what he had to do, except that attacking Hillary is what he has done from the very beginning of his campaign. He is much more comfortable doing that than Barack Obama is, and it showed. That trial lawyer experience served him well here. Obama was given an opening on the very first question to criticize Clinton and to make distinctions between himself and Hillary and he passed on it. I don’t think he is all that comfortable with political combat. Unfortunately, staying above the fray may not work this year. I know Obama is trying to be a different kind of candidate, and provide a contrast to the combative Edwards, and to Hillary, but his heart doesn’t seem to be totally in this campaign.

As far as Balz’s comment on Chris Dodd is concerned, at this point he should be more worried about his own electability than about Hillary’s. He did seem to be engaged in this debate much more than in the previous one, but not enough to change his status in the race. Same goes for Kucinich, who never fails to entertain — in case you missed it, he saw a UFO, just like Shirley McLaine claimed he did. Why are we asking questions about UFOs and Halloween costumes in a Presidential debate??? Are Tim Russert and Brian Williams getting bored? Did they leave the piece of paper with their last question back in the control room? You expect this junk from Chris Matthews, not from these two. They asked enough hard questions, I guess, so I will give them both a pass on this.

This waffling on driver’s licenses for illegals will hurt Hillary, because New Yorkers do not support Governor Spitzer’s proposal. Even a large percentage of Democrats oppose it. Maybe Obama and Edwards won’t be able to take advantage of this, but the Republicans certainly will make it an issue in the general election.

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embrace the nuance

Michael Medved explains why Rudy is different than Hillary on abortion.

Consider, for instance, the key differences between Giuliani’s platform and those of the leading Democratic candidates. Giuliani has committed to preserve the Hyde Amendment, banning taxpayer money for abortions; the top Democrats urge repeal and favor federal funding. Giuliani applauded the recent Supreme Court decision upholding a ban on partial-birth abortion; all leading Democrats condemned it in harsh terms. The former mayor supports tougher rules requiring parental notification (with a judicial bypass) for underage girls who seek abortions; Clinton and Barack Obama oppose such legislation. Most significant of all, Giuliani has specifically cited strict-constructionists Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and John Roberts as his models for future justices of the Supreme Court — and all three of those jurists have signaled their support for allowing states more leeway in limiting abortions. The top Democrats regularly express contempt for the conservative jurists whom Giuliani admires, and worked against the Alito and Roberts nominations.

I will note, however, that Rudy’s position on federal funding of abortions has changed over the years. But I think there’s common ground to be found here on the abortion issue, especially when pro-lifers consider the alternative. The pro-life community has a moral problem with abortion, and even though most Americans don’t agree with banning abortion entirely, both sides should agree on reasonable limits to the practice. That’s where social conservatives who consider abortion one of their main concerns can accept Rudy Giuliani as the Republican nominee, because there are significant distinctions between his pro-choice position and that of any of his Democrat opposition.

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