Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You Can't Think Like That

Something bothered me while I watched Katie Couric’s interview with Senator Clinton on 60 Minutes this past Sunday. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until suddenly today my concerns coalesced: her approach to problem solving is to convince herself she couldn’t possibly be wrong.

Listen to the senator’s response to Couric’s inquiry as to whether she ever wonders if Obama might win.

"Even in your deepest darkest moments, when you're exhausted, you don't think 'Oh my gosh, I'm going through this, I'm spending so much money, I'm so tired and this could be all for naught?' What if that happens?" Couric asked. "You have to, once in a while, think that. No?"

"No, Katie," Clinton said. "You can't think like that. You have to believe you're going to win."

First, that has to be a lie. It’s scary to think that she has never pondered the possibility she might not win the nomination. A better answer might have been, “Well, of course, but I don’t dwell on those thoughts because I believe I can do this.” It’s one thing to say, “Yes, but…” and quite another to say, “I don’t allow myself to consider the alternative.”

I mean, hurray for positive thinking and affirmations, but look where that got our current President. As Iraq spiraled long ago into bloody chaos, Bush angrily insisted that we had to remain optimistic. But being optimistic isn’t just crossing your fingers and hoping for rainbows when there’s no rain in the forecast. Hoping for the best is an admirable quality in a president – indeed, Obamites have adopted “hope” as one of their mantras – but optimism, when it transcends the boundaries of the possible or even the likely, is delusion. While hoping for the best, a president should be ready for the worst.

A president who refuses even to consider the worst is not going to be, in Clinton’s words, “ready on day one.” Or on any other day.

Clinton’s reluctance to consider potentially adverse outcomes is the clearest explanation for the tanking of her campaign; presently, Obama – who was down in the polls by double digits about two weeks prior to Super Tuesday – leads Clinton in delegates and has won 22 states to her 10. Of Obama’s last 8 wins, Clinton’s narrowest loss was 19 points. She’s now short on cash and firing (okay, “accepting the resignations of,” to go with the media euphemism) her campaign manager and deputy campaign manager. She has offered a litany of lame excuses for why Obama is besting her, including the fantabulous claim that the caucus system favors him. No, Hillary, the system doesn’t favor Obama, the voters do.

If you focus exclusively on a best-of-all-possible-worlds outcome, you find yourself disengaged from reality. Do we want four more years of this kind of governance?

Sure, she says it with a smile instead of a smirk, and the grammar's not all screwy, but she has exactly the same mindset as President Bush.

Hillary, if you want to govern, you can’t think like that.


Crash said...

When I was in college, we had a spectacularly bad football team. After what seemed like the 50th loss, one of the football players wrote (or more likely, dictated) a letter to the editor of our campus newspaper explaining that the reason they kept losing was because the fans weren't pulling their weight.

That reminds me of Bush. Don't send in enough troops, don't supply them adequately, allow the contractors to embezzle money, then say that the war's only going badly because the liberals want it to. Or worse, just say that it's going just swell.

But yes, I can see Hillary doing the same thing.

Faustus, M.D. said...

I hope you'll forgive my saying that I don't quite buy this. "You have to believe you're going to win" and "you can't think like that" are a far cry from "I [continuously] believe I'm going to win" and "I don't think like that." "You can't think like that" is generally accepted to mean "Don't focus on that." I don't think it's reasonable to say that anybody who says "You have to believe you're going to [get the role/win the contest/make the sale/get the job] actually means "Refuse to accept reality." Motivational speech is motivational, not analytical.

Furthermore, the Clinton campaign 1) has an unbreakable deadline and 2) is running on resources Americans have chosen to give it. The White House has abandoned even the pretense that our occupation of Iraq has a deadline. And if I had a choice, I most certainly would not contribute to the $175,000,000 Bush is spending on this conflict every day.

It's absolutely necessary to criticize Clinton (and/or Obama) for any number of things, but to say that Clinton and Bush have the same mind set--I don't think it's a valid equation.

little-cicero said...

Could it be that Hilary is not so much self-motivating as she is motivating her support base by making such hyper-optimistic claims. I don't mean to sound cynical here, but I hardly think she's thinking about her own psychological well-being when answering Katie Couric's questions. At least that's not what she's talking to her campaign managers about. The campaign managers want her to bring home the bacon, that they may continue the campaign and their own subsistence.

Jeff said...

I doubt that Hillary *never* thinks about losing. I think she was probably putting on a brave face for Katie. It does play up her woodenness, though.

That said, it was kind of a shitty question to ask in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, the vitriol against Ms. Clinton is strong today. No politician is going to talk openly about losing because the headline becomes, "candidate X thinks he might lose." I would be very interested to hear all the times that Mr. Obama has contemplated losing the nomination, and talked openly about it. Andy, the fact is that all politicians – Bush, Clinton, and Obama -- dip into the same bag of tricks.

For example, the Obama camp likes to selectively rewrite history. When Ted Kennedy endorsed Mr. Obama they both talked about ending the divisions between groups like blacks and whites, straights and gays, among others. However, when the Obama campaign released transcripts of the event the pro-gay messages were left out. Redacting transcripts to change history? Sounds a lot like the Bush administration to me.


Andy said...

KH: I'm going to need a source for that. I've been Googling and cannot find any reference to support your claim; I did, however, find multiple websites containing Kennedy's Obama endorsement -- including here on Obama's campaign website -- that include the gay-positive language.

I find your claim difficult to accept, precisely because Obama's habit of speaking about gay issues to mostly-straight audiences is well documented. His MLK Jr. Day address in Atlanta was one of the top-watched YouTube videos of all time; after that kind of public support, there would be little percentage in bowdlerizing Kennedy's endorsement. After all, if you're averse to gay-positive language, you're probably not a Kennedy fan anyway and probably not much persuaded by him.

You may also want to check out this page. See if you can find anything similar on Hillary's website; I can't.

DJRainDog said...

The more you shill for Obama, the more I hate him and think you're a foolish idealist, Andy. Make no mistake, I think Hillary's a spineless cunt who'll do anything for approval, but Obama's followers are a bunch of starry-eyed zealots chanting empty slogans with no concrete and actionable plans for anything meaningful. Who knew there were so many pot-heads in America?! (Oh, wait...You're not one; I am -- but I'm still not buying into Barack's Bullshit.) Sick as I am of the evil old white guy hegemony, I'm leaning heavily McCain these days. At least with him, I feel like I know what I'm getting; in the last eight years, I've almost grown used to having elephant-cock up my ass.

Andy said...

Wow, some really distasteful language aside, I'm surprised that you, of all people, have bought into the conventional wisdom on the street that, as Hillary hinted, Barack is "all hat and no cattle." Yesterday she accused him -- in a speech -- that all he does is make speeches. But in fact the Obama campaign does have incredibly detailed plans and policies -- "solutions," as Hillary is now calling them. He just thinks that the stump speech is maybe not the best platform for wonkiness, that those of us yearning for a little more detail will take the time to go to his website and just look this stuff up.

Sweetie, as cynical as you think you are, you're just repeating Hillary's own talking points.

DJRainDog said...

And yet remarkably, I'm unaware of Hillary's talking points, because I've no TV, I try to expose myself to as little news as possible, and I loathe her, because she's as phony as the Louis Vuitton bags they're hawking down on Church St. I've checked out Obama's website and been unimpressed. (I'm sure the Clinton campaign has, too. Perhaps we've reached similar conclusions? And I'll admit, I'm wrong a lot, but not nearly as much as most people.) I maintain that there's not a viable candidate in the bunch and they all deserve punishment for their lies and willful pursuit of injustice. (Just gimme a lamp and call me Diogenes.)

DJRainDog said...

P.S.: The post's title has gotten Erasure's "Who Needs Love (Like That)" stuck in my head. Thanks.

Andy said...

Is that a good "thanks" or a sarcastic "thanks"? Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me!

Andy said...

DJ, further to our discussion, though I am always hesitant to quote Andrew Sullivan, this post captures for me how I feel about Obama's speechifying vs policy detail.

I understand you're skeptical, and sure, I might be a little too optimistic, but I really believe Obama is a radically different person that what we are accustomed to having in the White House. I want his to be the new face of America to the world.

Steve said...

We all have a right to our opinion. That is the great thing about the society we live in. My concern is when the attack becomes too personal.

I am not sure that non-Obama supporters understand that those of us who support him do so not out of a romantic idealism but out of a passion to see things change.

The world is a scary place. A place that is filled with hate, greed, terror and hurt. I am not naive, the problems are great.

I know that who we elect as President won't solve all the problems but my belief is that Senator Obama will have a mandate that will allow him to strongly lead the country.

For those that disagree in the primary fight, let's make sure that there can be unity found at the end of the day.