Deranged Clinton Syndrome

We all know the Times‘ Republican endorsement is a sideshow. What really counts is the editorial board’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Clinton is described as the “brilliant if at times harsh-sounding senator from New York.” This strikes me as senseless on both counts. Harsh-sounding? Brilliant? Clinton was undoubtedly a very gifted student, and I’ll bet she’d score higher on her SATs than, say, John McCain. But note that Obama, also a gifted student, is not identified as “brilliant.” He is “incandescent if still undefined.” One almost wishes the Times had praised his buttery-smooth cocoa complexion — that at least would have struck a less condescending note.

We have enjoyed hearing Mr. Edwards’s fiery oratory, but we cannot support his candidacy. The former senator from North Carolina has repudiated so many of his earlier positions, so many of his Senate votes, that we’re not sure where he stands. We certainly don’t buy the notion that he can hold back the tide of globalization.

Clinton, in contrast, can. Or at least that’s what she seems to be promising. So basically the Times is unwilling to give Edwards, the candidate who has offered the most detailed, comprehensive, and forthrightly redistributionist platform of the Democrats, the benefit of the doubt, yet Clinton is allowed to run a cynical campaign founded on sustained character assassination, obfuscation, and ethnic fear-mongering. The Times claims, rather amusingly, that “on the major issues, there is no real gulf separating” Clinton and Obama, a claim that makes a mockery of the careful work done by many of the Times‘ own reporters in drawing out deep contrasts between the two candidates. Clinton promises an end to the war in Iraq, yet she also offered a military strategy that closely paralleled that championed by Dov Zakheim and other advisors close to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

[Clinton’s] idea of repositioning American forces to minimize American casualties, discourage Iranian, Syrian and Turkish intervention, and forestall the Kurds’ declaring independence is not a new one. It has been advocated by Dov S. Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon’s comptroller under former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Zakheim has estimated that no more than 75,000 troops would be required, compared to the approximately 160,000 troops the United States will have in Iraq when the additional brigades in Mr. Bush’s plan are deployed.

Obama never backed the Zakheim-Rumsfeld strategy, and he also opposed the invasion of Iraq. As someone who backed the invasion and now supports the surge strategy, you might think I’d favor Clinton’s approach. And I suppose I do. But I do resent the fact that Clinton is lying about Obama’s record. Judging by everything I know about her decision-making style, her foreign policy ideology, and her political judgment, I believe not only that she would keep a large number of US troops engaged in Iraq but that she would be more likely to broaden the conflict, more likely perhaps than a Republican president.

Rather mysteriously, the Times writes:

Mr. Obama talks more about the damage Mr. Bush has done to civil liberties, the rule of law and the balance of powers. Mrs. Clinton is equally dedicated to those issues, and more prepared for the Herculean task of figuring out exactly where, how and how often the government’s powers have been misused — and what must now be done to set things right.

Evidently Clinton is equally yet silently dedicated to these issues. That the Times is able to divine Clinton’s secret intentions on these broad and vital questions raises an interesting issue that may play an important role in national security discussions to come: if members of the Times editorial board possess powers of extrasensory perception, or ESP, shouldn’t they be using these awesome abilities to hunt down and destroy the remnants of Al Qaeda? Surely this would constitute almost as great a service to national security as electing Hillary Clinton president.

As for Clinton’s preparation for this Herculean task, one has to assume that Obama’s academic training and his tenure in the Senate, not much shorter than Clinton’s, means nothing. His experience in a state legislature, and indeed experience working on transparency in government in a state legislature, is also meaningless. All I can say is that it’s a good and wonderful thing that the editorial board can read minds. I just hope they the board doesn’t use its formidable mental powers to give Obama voters a terrible migraine. To be sure, that wouldn’t be as bad as actively intimidating Obama voters at caucus sites, another tactic the Clinton machine seems to have embraced. One can vote with a migraine, after all.

Hillary Clinton is “offended” by soaring CEO pay, and she believes that the rich — rather than, say, computerization — are responsible for stagnant middle-class wages. I wouldn’t be surprised if she also believed Barack Obama were also somehow responsible. Expect a robocall or email forward to this effect.

Then there is Clinton’s fascinating Laschian term.

“You had a corporate ethos, that, because of the more self-contained American economy, was really focused on community,” Mrs. Clinton said. “There was a sense of multiple obligations. It wasn’t just to one’s shareholders. It was also to one’s employees, to one’s community.”

So while Obama is overpromising (what is this “hope” of which you speak?), Clinton intends to restore community and togetherness and decency. Through the use of coercive force. What fun!

Despite railing against corporate executives in the vein of John Edwards, Clinton is nevertheless backed by top corporate executives. Why? It could be because she has a reputation for saying one thing and doing another. Indeed, she has a proven track record of doing exactly that. So as someone with conservative sympathies, I can see supporting Clinton on these grounds alone. Yet she also has a reputation, richly deserved, for cronyism, self-dealing, and opportunism. While some corporate executives will likely do well under Clinton’s tenure, it’s easy to imagine others — others who dare to cross her — experiencing a rougher ride.

Consider another “trivial” difference between Clinton and Obama.

Her plan goes significantly further than Mr. Obama’s. She decided, in effect, that the downsides of rewarding irresponsible borrowing was outweighed by the benefits of reducing foreclosures.

Imagine how tough a choice that was! More bold thinking from the Clinton camp!

One is reminded of McCain’s defeat in South Carolina in 2000. Clinton must sorely regret that she can’t use proxies to pointedly accuse Obama of fathering a black child — because, after all, he has two of them, and they are adorable.

Last word, I promise: David Leonhardt has vividly detailed (in fairly sympathetic terms) Clinton’s Dukakisian technocratic agenda, minus the integrity and plus pandering, but what makes Obama any better? After all, he also favors a major expansion of the state?

Obama’s theory of how government works is at least sensible, if not correct. Unlike Clinton, he doesn’t seem to believe government — or rather Hillary Clinton personally — can solve all of your problems. Rather, he believes that democracy requires an active and engaged citizenry, and that government can create frameworks to help individuals and neighborhoods flourish. The part about an active and engaged citizenry might be daft — Clinton, who relies on low turnout and an utter lack of public scrutiny of her past statements and commercial transactions, must think so — but it does reflect the view of the framers, who for reasons good and bad we revere.

I just wish Obama would stop bashing Wal-Mart. As Pew found in 2006, a large majority of Democrats — an overwhelming majority of downscale Democrats — like Wal-Mart for the good reason that it delivers low prices. But that I can take. The lies and fear-mongering I can’t.

P.S. One small point I’d like to add:

We know that she is capable of both uniting and leading. We saw her going town by town through New York in 2000, including places where Clinton-bashing was a popular sport. She won over skeptical voters and then delivered on her promises and handily won re-election in 2006.

She defeated Rick Lazio. In 2006, she defeated the former mayor of Yonkers. The editorial notes that Clinton “delivered on her promises.” Did she revitalize the economy of upstate New York? She certainly pledged to do so.