Thursday, January 31, 2008

Into the Octopus Spin Room

Why Barack Obama won tonight's debate (and I am trying to view the debate objectively):

UPDATED [2/1/08]

The talking heads are jib-jabbering about Clinton having the "line of the night" when she said: "It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, it'll take another Clinton to clean up after the second Bush." This line, which the audience inexplicably seemed to absolutely love will fall flat over time. Why? First, the whole power of the line relies on the family connection between Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. People are just starting to wake up to the idea that living under two families for one third of a century feels distinctly un-American and induces a sense of claustrophobia. Second, the disingenuousness of HRC's campaign message is brought into stark relief by this line. She claims to be running on her own merits and her own experience, but this line reveals how much her campaign slavishly depends on the purported accomplishments of Bill Clinton's administration. When it's convenient, when the issue is Marc Rich or bombing pharmaceutical factories or getting impeached or ending welfare as we knew it she's got nothing to do with the First Clinton administration; when it's about the economy (did Bill Clinton create Yahoo or Amazon?), or making diplomatic trips abroad (with Sinbad and Sheryl Crow) she was a full member. See also bullshit lines about "and my memory is that people did pretty well in the 90's" (i.e., if you elect the wife of the president who supposedly brought you the Dot Com bubble, things will be sweet again -- but I'm running on my own merits!).

But let's put all that nonsense to one side. I thought Obama made the case, quite powerfully, that he was the best person to go up against McCain in the general election, because Obama has been clearly against the war from the beginning. Wolf Blitzer did not give Hillary a free pass on her rambling, incoherent answer trying to explain why her original vote to authorize the war was not a mistake. If you listened carefully, Clinton appeared to be saying -- amazingly, breathtakingly, even -- that her vote was not a mistake, and it really was the execution (read the actual invasion) that was botched by the administration. This puts her position on the war in sync with McCain and Romney, except that now she wants to end it. This is the same position espoused by people like Thomas Friedman, Bill Kristol, and Richard Perle.

What we saw tonight, in Clinton's tortured, rambling, self-contradictory "answer" on why her vote on Iraq was not a mistake but that the war must now be ended is the horror that we will face if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee chosen to go up against John McCain. McCain will insist on making the election about the war and national security (the economy is a loser for him and the Republicans). The economy is important, and people will care about that issue, but we need to accept that the Iraq War is not just another issue in a list of issues: it is the defining issue of this century so far. Our invasion of Iraq was the greatest foreign policy mistake we have made in modern American history, it has fundamentally altered and upset the balance of power in the Middle East, it has completely altered the nature of our alliances abroad, and it has made us less safe around the globe. For these reasons, it is absolutely crucial that the Democratic nominee be able to stand up and clearly state that he (or she) was against it from the start. HRC can't do that; Obama can.

More significantly, HRC's rambling, shambling continued defense of her 2002 authorization for the war gives you great insight into the mind of someone who is unwilling to admit error, and who retains, in the face of facts that have proven her absolutely wrong, a deluded and mulish belief that she was not wrong -- other people were.

In my unbiased opinion, Obama had the best line of the night when he totally upended the rationale of Clinton's campaign (i.e., "35 years of experience" that makes her "Ready on Day One (TM)") by noting that all that purported experience was great and all (god knows Cheney and Rumsfeld had shitloads of experience) but the most important thing was to be "Right on Day One". He then drove the point home by saying that he didn't want to just end the war, but that he wanted to end the "mindset" that allowed this war to take place in the first place (i.e., the mindset of those like Bill and Hillary Clinton, who thought that it was worth cheerfully going along with Bush & Cheney on the war in Iraq in 2002 if it might help their chances for the Glorious Clinton Restoration in 2008, but then decided to turn against the war -- but not the vote authorizing the war -- when they realized that the war had become unpopular).

I am happy to hear any supporter of Hillary Clinton try to explain the principle behind Hillary Clinton's position on Iraq and her refusal to admit that her go-ahead for the war was a terrible, tragic mistake.

Also, I'd like to know this: Hillary Clinton, like other supposed foreign policy "experts", like her craven sycophant Richard Holbrooke (who also vocally supported the Iraq War, and would be our new Secretary of State under the Glorious Clinton Restoration) are constantly swanning around talking up how much foreign policy expertise they have. While that's nice and all, what good is all that supposed foreign policy "expertise" when you proved yourself miserably, fatally wrong on the biggest foreign policy decision of our time? It just doesn't make sense. I'm sorry, but if you went with the herd mentality of Washington insiders and supported this stupid, miserable, disastrous war, you don't get a free pass. You don't get to simply waltz into the White House with a promise that you'll do it better next time. Especially not after you've proven that you didn't learn anything from the disaster in Iraq and you go ahead and vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment in 2007 that gives Bush & Cheney everything they need to launch a new war against Iran by labeling the entire Iranian army a "terrorist organization".

This is the played-out mindset we need to get past: the mindset of people like the Clintons and their retinue (e.g., Holbrooke, Albright, et al.) who cheerfully go along with stupid ideas like the Iraq War because they think this makes them, somehow, "strong". What differentiates them from Bush & Cheney then? Especially when the Clintons et al. are unable to bring themselves to admit that they were wrong? Does that mulish stubborness and inability to learn from mistakes sound familiar to anyone? This is not what we need more of.

Look, I'm just a little lone person out on the edge of Los Angeles city limits, with my internet connection, basic cable, and home delivery of the L.A. Times, but from my vantage point, it feels like there is a massive movement gathering, and Obama is headed for greater success than we're expecting on Tuesday, and that he will ride this movement to the nomination, and straight on through to Inauguration Day.


MK said...

Hillary is McCain lite. Why would anyone vote for the half-assed copy if they can have the real thing? Why vote for the sorta-kinda-hawk who voted for war but wants to get out now, if you can vote for the uncomplicated guy who just wanted the war? If she wins, the Dems loose the WH. It will be 2000 and 2004 all over again.

toddy said...

Heh. Unbiased.

Kris said...

I agree with you on Obama's best line (Right on day 1). He should be pushing that line every chance he gets.

Anonymous said...

I made my first political donation ever last night for Barack's January push. Believe!!


suzanne said...

OK, so you know I was against the war from the start. And I'm going to vote for Obama. But not because HRC voted for the war.

A LOT of dems -- good liberal dems -- were bamboozled by the "classified" horrorshow the Bushies created. And they were in a political pickle back in '02. So the question isn't about voting for the war -- that's almost everyone's sin -- but rather what you're going to do about it now. I can't hold that vote against her, although I can hold her failure to articulate WHY it was OK against her (and, really, she's usually pretty good about justifying her actions).

A part of me just doubts that Obama would have joined Kucinich and assorted Congressional "wackos" in voting against war authorization had he been in the federal senate at the time. There's a little bit of monday morning quarterbacking.

Octopus Grigori said...

Suzanne: I take your point -- to a certain point -- that a number Dems felt like they had to vote for the war because they felt like they were in a political pickle.

But I have to disagree with you that the only people who voted against this war were "wackos". This is part of the storyline we have all been fed by people like the Clintons, Holbrooke, Thomas Friedman, et al. -- i.e., that everyone was wrong about the war. That's simply untrue. Here is the roll call in the Senate on the Iraq War resolution that Generalissimo Hillary Clinton stepped up and voted for, after dinging the Levin Amendment.

There were many good honorable Dems who voted against the war, including Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the great Senator from the state of Wisconsin, Russell Feingold (D-CA), Senator Lincoln Chaffee from your great home state (R-RI), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Senator Sarbanes (D-MD), Senator (now Gov.) Corzine (D-NJ), and the late great Senator Paul Wellstone, God rest his soul, (D-MN), just to name a few.

Great men and women stood up in the Senate and made the right judgment -- the same one Barack Obama made. On the most important vote in her political career, Hillary Clinton decided to align herself the likes of Joseph Lieberman, John Kyl, Rick Santorum, Jesse Helms, and Orrin Hatch. She knew what she was doing. When it counted, she voted for for expediency against principle, she voted to trust Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld & Co.

For this I cannot, will not, and need not forgive her.

Octopus Grigori said...

Correction: Senator Feingold is, of course, (D-WI), and is truly one of our greatest political leaders. The D-CA was likely just wishful thinking on my part (i.e., wishing he would replace the basically useless Sen. Feinstein (D-CA)).

Octopus Grigori said...

Here is the full list of the 23 Senators who voted against the War:

Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Chafee (R-RI)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corzine (D-NJ)
Dayton (D-MN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (D-FL)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wellstone (D-MN)
Wyden (D-OR)