Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In Praise of Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton would make a good president.

There is no ambiguity in my mind about the above statement. I mean, yes, sure, I said “good,” not “great.” There are issues on which I disagree with her, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like her style of governing, but there is no question that she’s competent and qualified and would be an enormous improvement over George W. Bush, and is unquestionably to be preferred over John McCain.

Recently several people – commenters anonymous and not, and people in “real life,” as well – have suggested (or bluntly stated) that I am some crazy Hillary Hater, a naïf who’s bought into the media “hype” over Obama and drunk too much of the Kool-Aid. My long-term readers, however, know that I’ve been on-board with Obama since he declared, back in the days when no one thought he had a realistic chance, and that I have been upset with Hillary – who used to be my senator – since she voted to support the Iraq war.

The war is still my biggest issue with her. Experience is an important presidential attribute, but so is judgment, and on the single most important vote of her senate career, she made the wrong choice.

Some of her supporters – and now, alas, the candidate herself – are claiming that her campaign has been disadvantaged by sexism. That may be true, to an extent, but then this is a candidate who fails to acknowledge that she has benefited from the support of voters who openly proclaim that they won’t vote for a black man or a Muslim (not to mention that Obama is not a Muslim). It is asinine and dishonest to argue that Obama has coasted to victory on the “advantage” of being a black man while she has been hobbled by misogyny. Discrimination goes both ways.

She began this campaign as the clear front-runner; indeed, the word “inevitable” was used before she’d even officially declared. Going into Super Tuesday, she led by more than 60 superdelegates. To say that her campaign was derailed by sexism is to imagine that it was only on February 6 that the nation suddenly realized we had a woman in the contest and started flocking to the men. And it certainly doesn’t explain why she was still validly in the race long after Edwards, Richardson and the rest had been forced to concede.

No, the unfortunate truth for Hillary and her supporters is that the nation prefers Barack Obama. Yes, it’s a close race, but in elections second place is second place.

The awkward part is that Hillary does not seem to accept that she is in second place. In fact, she is openly promoting what could only charitably be called a “distortion” that she leads in the popular vote.

Let’s be clear about several things. The nominating process is flawed and bizarre, but the rules were agreed to by all parties, and you can’t change the rules at the end of the contest. The only metric that actually matters is the delegate count. Senator Clinton supported punishing Michigan and Florida for moving their primaries up in the calendar. Her top campaign aide (and superdelegate) Harold Ickes himself voted in August 2007 to strip the two states of their delegates.

I agree that it is unfair to the voters of the two states to punish them for the irresponsible actions of the state party leaders, but that’s what Hillary herself agreed to do. She’s so far behind that even seating the delegates won’t overtake Obama’s lead, so that’s why she’s pushing the popular vote meme. But her strategy is even sketchier than that: in Michigan, where she was the only candidate on the ballot, she garnered 55% of the vote. She includes all of those non-counting votes in her popular vote total, but grants none of the 41% of Michigan voters who bothered to show up for a non-binding primary to register their support for “Uncommitted’ (aka, Anyone But Hillary) to Obama. If she did, she’d be behind in the popular vote again. For all her talk of “disenfranchising” Florida and Michigan, there’s 41% of Michigan voters she needs to ignore. If she gets her way, we’ll end up punishing Obama for playing by the rules.

But wait, it’s worse. Obama won three caucus states (Iowa, Washington and Maine) that only report delegates, not the total number of voters. Since we don’t officially know how many people voted in those states she simply discounts them. Or, in her terminology, disenfranchises them. It’s this kind of truth-with-an-asterisk politics that has hobbled her campaign, far more than her gender.

If Obama weren’t in the race, I would definitely be supporting Senator Clinton. But he is, and I prefer him, and so do the majority of Democrats. He leads by every measure except the fake one Clinton has trotted out. She has lost fair and square, and her insistence on promoting intellectually dishonest numbers to bolster her campaign undermines her viability and discredits her genuine achievements. If she chooses to continue to compete in the Puerto Rico, South Dakota and Montana primaries, that is her right. But when the time comes, she needs to concede graciously and support the nominee.


Jeff said...

You got it Andy! Hillary has a positive, workable agenda for America. She's got the will to stand up and be counted, and she's worth fighting for.

That's pretty much it for me.

Jeff said...

Thank you, thank you for pointing out the "popular vote" fallacy. This morning I read a NY Times letter by someone who said that Hillary actually has more of the popular vote than Obama, and I was like, huh? So I went to here and checked and realized that it's true only if you don't give Obama any votes from Michigan, which is ridiculous.

Not to mention the fact that Obama closed the gap with Clinton in most states he actually campaigned in, since he didn't have Clinton's built-in recognition.

That said, this is one of the closest nomination races since the Democrats stepped out of the smoke-filled rooms, and superdelegates will determine the nominee and are allowed to change their minds. But they're not likely to.

If there were a big difference over issues, then I could see Hillary's reasons for staying in. But she and Obama are so close on the issues; for example, both will provide health care to *everyone* who wants it.

Her decision to stay in is pathological and egotistical. She needs to stop.

Anonymous said...

DNC rules violate the 14th admendment:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Andy said...

I won't dispute your argument. I'll just wonder why Hillary Clinton didn't speak up for the voters of Michigan and Florida in August of last year, instead of stripping them of their delegates.

Gino said...

the DNC is a private organisation, and has the right to decide its own rules of voting and membership.

hillary's argument du jour is as false as saying gore won the popular vote in 2000.
there was no national popular vote election contest, so he couldnt have won it.

Anonymous said...

"the DNC is a private organisation, and has the right to decide its own rules of voting and membership."

The DNC is a certified political party in both FL & MI. Their ruling threw out a tax payer funded state run election for no good reason. The DNC could be decertified in these states and thrown off the ballot this November and in the future. The officials could also be indiviually sued for depriving US citizens their civil rights based on the 14th admendment. vote.

Andy said... know, there may be some boneheads running the Democratic Party, sure...but nevertheless there are enough Democrats -- and certainly the DNC has its own lawyers as do all the various campaigns -- that if stripping Florida and Michigan of its delegates was some kind of Constitutional error, SOMEONE would have spoken up long ago and said, "Um...guys?" And again, Hillary signed the pledge and her own lead campaign advisor Harold Ickes is on the committee and voted to punish these two states. She should have come rushing to their defense nearly a year ago, but arrogant and overconfident as she was, she didn't think she'd need those states because she thought she'd have it won on Feb. 5. This meme about letting every state vote is nonsense; that was never her intention, which is why she went broke and lost 13 contests in a row after Super Tuesday. She wasn't prepared to continue campaigning, she never saw it coming. Now in her desperation, she is making a grotesquely cynical appeal to "principle". It's embarrassing. I don't want her anywhere near the White House.

And, you're missing the whole point of Hillary's attempt to steal the nomination, here. Seating the Florida and Michigan delegates now does not change the significantly shrinks Barack's lead, but he'd still be ahead and in order for her to win the nomination, the superdelegates would still have to use their authority to thwart the express will of the people, which frankly strikes me as the bigger violation of principle, here, even if it is kosher according to the rules.

But in order to bolster that argument to the delegates, Hillary is using an artificial "popular vote" tally. Now, personally, I wish we DID choose by popular vote, but we DON'T. And in order to arrive at Hillary's magic number, she has to actively discount votes for Obama. That stinks. She's no victim of discrimination, she's a victim of her own short-sightedness and ineptitude. Oh, and cynicism.

Anonymous said...

Andy, I understand your arguement of fairness and that everybody agreed last year. However, that does not give the boneheads in the DNC the right to ignore the Constitution and even their own rules (read on). See the attached lawsuit that was filed yesterday. On page 2 the first point of Jurisdiction is the fourteenth admendment.

If you read further you will find that 3 other states moved their dates up (in violation of DNC rules) but were not punished--Iowa, New Hampshire & South Carolina.

So what is up with that? Read carefully & you might learn something.

Anonymous said...

opps the previous link got cut off. you need to download the pdf.

Andy said...

I bet you $1 the court declines to hear the case for lack of merit. (Well...then again, this IS Florida...wackier things have happened.)

DJRainDog said...

This is all just sad. What a fucking tragic travesty America has become!

Andy said...

Anon: via Andrew Sullivan, here's why I think this proposed lawsuit is without merit:

Often in ligitation, if the rules help you, they are iron clad, and if they don't, you look for reasons why they shouldn't apply. But that's not what's going on here.

To use the ligitation analogy, if you walk in to court espousing the exact opposite position of an earlier stated position, you lose, plain and simple. Your opponent calls it an admission, throws it in your face, and probably moves for sanctions. The judge accepts the earlier position as the truth and the later position an obvious attempt to impose a different standard of liability than what everyone agreed to before the litigation (or at an earlier point in the litigation). Worst of all, you lose all credibility with the judge, which any litigator will tell you is the most important weapon in your arsenal. By Ann's analogy, Clinton loses (and gets sanctioned).

Anonymous said...

Andy, the only problem is that one of the three plantiffs is the speaker of the house undeclared, one is a Hillary supporter and the third is an Obama supporter. Hillary is not involved in this lawsuit.

People in FL are pissed their votes don't count & IA, NH & SC also moved up their primaries against DNC rules, but their votes count. This lawsuit is filed in FL. Obama is going to lose votes in MI & FL because of this. He may win the nomination but his actions will lose the general. Thanks for your forum.

Jeff said...

I can't see this suit succeeding (though I admit I haven't looked at the briefs). While the Court has ruled that a political party can't have a racially discriminatory primary, racial classifications are held to high level of scrutiny. This is different. In fact, one thing that makes it different is that the reason the Democrats added South Carolina to the early states was to bring more racial diversity into the early part of the process, to counter the largely white states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

But who knows.

Anonymous said...

Here is the [link] for the lawsuit filed in FL by 3 Democrats in the FL House of Representatives.

"" >link