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Feb 20 2008

The potential Clinton vs. McCain nightmare

(Due to the unexpected importance of Ohio in the primary process, I am pre-empting the economy series for three posts on the elections.)

Back in November 13, 2006, when Wisconsin’s US Senator Russ Feingold announced that he would not run for the Democratic nomination for president, I wrote the following:

“With Feingold’s departure from the race, we are headed closer to a nightmare scenario in 2008 where the two factions of the pro-war/pro-business party will send their most cynical and opportunistic and unprincipled representatives to vie for the presidency: Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain. The pundits will love them because they play the game according to the debased rules they understand, where the only things that matter are strategy and tactics, and principles are irrelevant.”

Now that the primary season is well underway, at least half of my prediction seems to have sadly come true, with John McCain almost certainly being the Republican nominee. It seems like only Barack Obama can prevent the full nightmare from occurring. The Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4 and the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 will play important roles in deciding who the eventual Democratic nominee is.

If it is eventually Clinton vs. McCain, one can look forward to the nauseating spectacle of the Villagers in the media fawning over McCain, completely buying into his self-aggrandizing pose of being a ‘straight talker’ and ‘maverick’ and ‘independent’, and completely ignoring his actual record which clearly shows that he is a rabid war-monger, someone who panders shamelessly and is willing to reverse policy positions if it is expedient to so do, and one who toes the Republican party line 88.5% of the time, much higher than the average of 80%. For reasons that are unfathomable to me, the Villagers seem to adore McCain and give him a pass on all these things.

As Duncan Black says:

McCain’s a skilled politician who is good at telling members of the media – and interest groups – what they want to hear. He’s good at making them think he agrees with them on whatever issue they happen to care about, and even though he almost never follows up with any coherent action or leadership on these issues, he has flattered the chattering classes by validating their Very Wise Positions and appealing to their intellectual vanity. Then when Saint John McCain is forced by Circumstances Beyond His Control to change his position, everyone involved feels very sorry for poor John McCain. Elites have contempt for those rubes known as “voters” so it pains them when voters force their sainted John McCain to do all of these bad things.

Our elite discourse is run by shallow easily flattered fools.

John McCain also shows every sign of having a highly authoritarian mindset, similar to the current Bush-Cheney regime. His repeated use of the grating phrase ‘my friends’ in speeches, and even ‘my friend’ when he is talking to one person in interviews or in a question-and-answer setting, is a dead give-away of a person who is patronizing the listener. He clearly thinks very highly of himself and looks down on other people. If he is elected president, we can look forward to more contemptuous treatment of anyone who opposes him, and whining and scaremongering to try and always get his way, the kind of behavior that has characterized the present administration.
The coverage of Clinton will also be awful but in a different way. There is something about Hillary Clinton that rubs some of the Villagers in the media the wrong way. Maureen Dowd and Chris Matthews and the entire Fox News network seem to get positively unhinged by her. This instinctive reaction causes them to obsess over the most absurd things. We can expect to see the Villagers focus negatively on personal issues and trivialities, her laugh and her looks, her clothes, her family, the old scandals, and so on.
My problems with Hillary Clinton are for reasons that are very different from that of the Villagers. I really don’t care about her personal characteristics except insofar as they affect her policy positions. My concern is that she has shown herself to be completely willing to do the bidding of the pro-war/pro-business interests. She is favored by the lobbyist and business groups and seems quite capable of even starting wars just to show that she can be ‘tough’. Her votes on Iraq and Iran are ominous, showing that she is an eager follower of the neo-conservative agenda of going to war with those countries and others in that region.

She is also completely in the embrace of Wall Street and other financial interests. Her health care plan during Bill Clinton’s presidency became a nightmare because from the beginning she sought to protect the interests of the health insurance companies, the very cause of the problem. Recently in her campaign speeches she has started adopting some of John Edwards’ rhetoric about class and railing against Wall Street interests dominating government, but her record shows that this is utterly disingenuous. She has been a loyal servant of those very same interests and they are backing her now.

I have never seen any indication that she (or her husband for that matter) has any core principles, things that she will never give up because she believes in it too strongly. It seems like every principle, every policy position, is negotiable in the service of gaining power. They raised ‘triangulation’ to an art form. She, like her husband, is ruthless in the pursuit of power, so do not be surprised if she and her surrogates start using all manner of innuendo and dirty tricks against Obama if the race for the Democratic nomination continues to be close and she is in danger of losing. She knows that at the age of 60, this is her only chance to be president as she will be considered too old for the job in 2012 or 2016, so brace yourself for some really tough campaigning from her. The age standard is much laxer for men. McCain will be 72 in August but not much is being made of that.

Both Clintons also have a history of using people for their own ends and betraying even close and loyal friends (Lani Guinier, Peter Edelman, and Vince Foster immediately come to mind) to further their own ambitions or to make deals with their political opponents. I think that both Hillary and Bill Clinton have shown themselves to be shrewd tacticians but political cowards.

As you might guess, I am not going to be voting for Hillary Clinton or John McCain in the Ohio primary.

Next: The problem of Obama

POST SCRIPT: Strange values

The people of Denmark are considered the happiest people on Earth, and have this strange notion that there are other things that are more important to happiness than money. Of course they are crazy. They have been driven insane by living in a socialist hell where they get free health care, government-paid maternity and paternity leave, education is free for all the way through college (and students are even paid to go to college), and they get subsidized child care as well.

When will the Danes wake up and realize that all these things are worth giving up in exchange for giving a very few people the opportunity to make obscene amounts of money, just like we do in the US? The US ranks 23rd on the happiness scale, by the way.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Nicole

    Note to self: if all else fails, move to Denmark.

    I would be more than happy to give the government 50% of my income if they covered everything like that. Sadly, I think I’m one of the few Americans who feels that way.

  2. 2
    Mano

    Nicole,

    I think many more people would think like you and me if they saw the full picture.

    I have never understood this deep antipathy to paying any taxes. After all, it is not how much money is taken out of your paycheck that matters but what the remaining money will get you.

    There is something weird thing about these anti-tax zealots. They would condemn a country in which someone is paid (say) $50,000 and pays $25,000 in taxes. But what would they say about a country in which everything else is the same but that same person was paid $25,000 but paid no taxes?

  3. 3
    Rian

    I simply do not believe that the government of any principality acts in anything other than its own self-interest first. In Denmark’s case, it secures its own power by taking over half of the national wealth to distribute – the government of Denmark is now the arbiter of Danish society. Because of their overwhelming financial strength, what’s the remedy if the Danish government decides to openly use its power for its own self-interest rather than subtly moving society in that manner? Electoral politics? Good luck with that. No amount of inducement, from subsidized health-care to education to child care, would make me want to give the government that much power. By comparison, the Federal government seeks to take about 24% off the national treasury. And we’re seeing how well that’s working out.

    @Mano: The difference between the two states is that one person is subsidizing a government that is not guaranteed to be acting in that person’s self-interest (in fact, it’s more likely that the government is not acting in such a manner). My list of things that I would be willing to pay the government to do for me is clearly much less than yours, because I don’t trust the government to act in my own best interest. I recognize that with the advent of modern militaristic states that national defense isn’t something that can readily be achieved without some collective effort, but giving them money to do more than that? Not a chance if I can help it. And “defense” means “defense”, so a great deal less than what we currently spend. As it is my 6.75% (adjusted, I’m a poor college student)

    To the original topic: The two best tacticians in the race have always been Clinton and McCain. Obama might very well win the popular voting for delegates (in fact, I would be surprised at this point if he does not do so), but unless his lead is on the order of 300 delegates or better it’s entirely possible that he loses the nomination to Hillary. She’s always held a lead in superdelegates and it’s entirely possible that she could expand that lead in the later stages of balloting at the convention. The problem for her isn’t that she can fall so far behind that it would take a miracle, but that she’s eminently defeatable already by John McCain. If Obama was advocating eating babies, the Democratic party machinery would vote for him if they thought he was the best at running against McCain.

    Because remember kids, elections aren’t about issues or principles. They’re about one party trying to retain power and the other trying to gain it.

  4. 4
    Rian

    Correction: “As it is, my 6.75% (adjusted, as I am a poor college student) goes for things that I’d prefer it not to – most of our manufacturing actually, since 90% of it is military.

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