Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away

Admittedly, I've never been a big fan of Maureen Dowd's catty, substance free columns. I've given her efforts the occasional perusal, but rarely do I feel particularly enriched or stimulated, though sometimes amused. That generalized apathy is turning into disgust, however, after witnessing how her compulsive, pathological animosity for the Clintons is turning her into a serialized killer.

Her latest effort is as predictable as it is banal - though "banal" doesn't really capture the dimensions of the underlying ugliness. The column is replete with her usual psycho-babble, envy and unfair attribution of cynical motive to every statement, maneuver and decision - both real and imagined. She is the print version of Chris Matthews, and their shared and sordid grudge laid bear on a regular basis makes following each an equally odious task.

Speaking of Matthews, his irrational Clinton hatred is only outmatched by his reverence for Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and, oddly enough, the sleep-inducing, or deprived, Fred Thompson (is there a more transparently sexist pundit on the non-Fox cable stations?). Seriously, Matthews still thinks Giuliani is in the fight. I wonder if he's gotten past denial with regard to Thompson yet (some apparently haven't).

Still, the gold standard for this type of fare - both in terms of volume and nastiness - is set by Andrew Sullivan. Roy Edroso says it well, when discussing the recent maelstrom over the fact that the Clintons are, gasp, baring knuckles in a campaign (I know, I know, hard to fathom):
I don't even need to quote him; you know what to expect from him and have known it for years. If Sullivan has nothing else in common with his old rightwing colleagues anymore, he is reunited with and even outstrips them in his reflexive hatred of all things Clinton. I'm not so keen on them myself, but I don't need a fucking drool-cup whenever they come into view. And I must say that Sullivan's current concern for gentlemanly conduct in Presidential contests is a little rich when compared to his far more measured assessment of Karl Rove as recently as 2004:

And the Mary Cheney thing is a brilliant maneuver by the Republicans. Rove knows that most people do find mentioning someone's daughter's lesbianism to be distasteful and gratuitous. So he can work it to great effect, exploiting homophobia while claiming to be defending gays. Again: masterful jujitsu. I tip my hat to the guy. Poisonous, but effective.
Compared to that loathsome episode, what the Clintons have been doing is strictly Marquis of Queensbury stuff, but they'll never get the kind of good-show Sullivan gave Rove because Sullivan is afflicted by what, in other contexts, is commonly called a Derangement Syndrome.
Sullivan has been so unbearable that many of his readers have asked him to regain his composure and perspective - and he pledged to make an attempt to moderate his passionate hatred. As Dana Goldstein illustrates, however, addictions are a hard thing to break:

Andrew Sullivan hit a new low [i]n his Hillary Clinton hatred, calling Richard Nixon Clinton's "mentor." Why, wasn't it less than two weeks ago that Sullivan promised "a new tone" when it came to his treatment of the Clintons? "I'm going to try a little harder to be a little more temperate," he swore.

A temperate blogger might note that in one of her first jobs after law school, Hillary Clinton worked for the House Commission on the Judiciary securing Nixon's impeachment.
Like Roy, sharp-elbowed politics doesn't shock me, nor would I imagine, for a minute, that the Clintons invented the stuff. Nevertheless, there seems to be a bit of collective amnesia with respect to the current race. A few months back, Edwards and Obama were having a difficult time putting a dent in Clinton's lead. At the time, pundits and observers criticized Edwards and Obama for playing too nice. "The only way they could take her down was to go negative," went the frequent refrain. Then, unsurprisingly, the gloves came off and the pair did in fact go negative. They started repeating GOP talking points about the dishonesty and slickness of the Clintons, and were making veiled racist appeals (calling Hillary the Senator from Punjab was a particularly nice touch from the Obama camp). It worked (it almost always does), and the polls narrowed.

Obama, though, gets excused for his negative campaigning because he claims that he doesn't do it, and that he doesn't like the old politics (or himself, I guess, for practicing it). And people accept this uncritically. Instead, the focus is on the dread Clintons - or the "two headed monster" as Dowd puts it in an approving quote of Rupert Murdoch's NY Post (note: I thought Murdoch was a Clinton supporter?)

It's not that I don't like Obama, because I do. I will happily vote for him (or Edwards or Clinton in the general election). The Democrats are blessed with three very strong candidates - a veritable embarrassment of riches compared to the poverty of the GOP field. Still, I'm not going to fool myself about Obama, or claim that he's some exception to the rule. In that respect, the double standards bother me - whether it be in terms of judging proclivities for negative campaigning, or in the application of political tests whereby a politician who is to the right of Clinton on healthcare, Social Security, the environment, energy policy and economic stimulus is championed as a "change" politician and a progressive stalwart, while Clinton is derided as a Republican.

In reality, Obama has positioned himself to the middle and, at times, right on purpose. He invoked Reagan's name deliberately and with calculation. It was no accident. He wasn't praising Reagan overtly, but making a play for independent and Republican votes as he has been doing all campaign - both rhetorically, and through policy proposals. I think it's a pretty good strategy in fact.

Ironically, though, Clinton has been deemed unfair and out of bounds for calling this for what it is - not Obama for the obvious pander. Speaking of which, Obama recently released a Huckabee-like Christian-themed campaign brochure in South Carolina to, similarly, make a play for the applicable constituency. As usual, he gets a pass. I'm sure Clinton will be judged harshly if she raises it as an issue, though.

He doesn't really mean it his supporters argue - but Clinton always does. He's just doing what he needs to do to get elected which is perfectly reasonable. Unless Hillary's playing the same game. I'd say it's surprising, but then, there's so much irrational animosity directed her way, that shock isn't really in play.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?