Radical Change, Zeitgeist & Presidential Politics
Radical Change, Zeitgeist, and Presidential Politics
In the ‘90’s, I never understood why the Republicans hated the Clintons so much. Their vituperation and vitriol always struck me as slightly insane. But now, though I have no more sympathy for Republican philosophy or positions, I comprehend their abhorrence.
The American people got to see the real Hillary and Bill just before the New Hampshire primary. In the debate a couple days before the vote, Hillary was at once petulantly and personally angry that anyone should doubt that She is an agent of change, flying off the handle at John Edward’s zingers about her being part of “the forces of the status quo.”
But at least that reaction was real. When the moderator ham-handedly asked why so many people find her unlikable, Hillary played the hurt girl. “That hurts my feelings,” she said with an aggrieved tone that conveyed irony to those who could hear it, and authenticity to those who couldn’t.
The stage was set for another display of the wounded damsel act when, the next day at a gathering of New Hampshire of female Democrats, Hillary was asked how she and her hair hold up amidst all these terrible slings and arrows from the men.
She broke down just enough to bring thousands of older women on board, and break Obama’s momentum after Iowa. As Maureen Dowd said in the New York Times, “there was a whiff of self-pity about her choking up.” More than a whiff. “It stirred sisterhood,” Dowd explained, because, “in a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for all of us.”
Meanwhile, Bill was displaying his true colors on the same day Hillary was feeling sorry for herself about how the American people weren’t seeing what a caring, competent person she is. His infamous temper flared, declaring Obama’s candidacy “the biggest fairy tale I’ve ever seen.” Of course, being Bill, he parsed and parsed until enough people believed he was simply referring to Obama’s stance on Iraq to get him to shut up and go away.
They are not going to go away however. Hillary and Bill are high functioning mavens of the status quo, and both have something to prove. Bill has to prove that he didn’t squander his eight years as president and pave the way for George Junior; Hillary has to prove that she hasn’t served in Slick Willie’s shadow and enabled his pussy-footing all these years for nothing.
This is all old news of course. But it shows how Hillary’s pretensions of heart trumped Obama’s platitudes about change, which carried the day in the Iowa heartland.
As things stand, Barack Obama doesn’t stand a chance against these operators. The Clinton campaign turned a big stumble about race (when Hillary declared that Lyndon Johnson was the real agent of Martin Luther King’s change) into a fine diversion, which took the brief wind out of the sails of hope that there might be real change this election year.
There is an American tendency, enshrined in our foreign policy, to have things both ways. Non-coincidentally, both George Bush and Hillary Clinton embody this habit of mind, which reflect a disturbing deficiency in national character.
Bush’s attitude toward mistakes is that he made a mistake once—he thought he was wrong when he wasn’t. Hillary doesn’t go that far, but her enmeshment with Bill, and the wasted opportunities in the ‘90’s to deal with such issues as terrorism, genocide, and the Middle East, make her unable to come clean.
In one sense, people make too much of presidential candidates; in another sense they make too little. National leaders themselves cannot effect radical change. They are litmus tests of their times. Once they become president, their capacities for growth establish the parameters of their presidency. That’s why with a dunce like Bush we slid into the muck when the (by then) inevitable crisis of 9/11 came.
The United States didn’t get George Bush Junior by accident or design however. Of course the machinations of the military-industrial complex in America, underwritten by millions of fundamentalist fools who believed George had Jesus in his heart when he actually has the devil in his head, had much to do with the Bush manifestation.
It’s no accident that we have such an incompetent ‘Potus’ (‘President of the United States,’ a word that the Secret Service used to refer to presidents before Bush, but that fits this nincompoop very well). The Bush era is an expression of the widespread malaise (to use the word Jimmy Carter coined in both a prophetic and impolitic way) in America.
All told, this is why the debate about ‘experience vs. change’ is irrelevant. George Bush’s lack of experience had little to do with his monumental failure as a president. His lack of judgment and intellectual curiosity were the main factors. Hillary supposedly has the experience, if serving as First Lady qualifies one to be President, but she still lacks the judgment, and the capacity for growth that Obama has.
So it comes down to this: The Democrats can get the country back with Obama (because he won’t even get nominated without radical changes in the peoples’ attitudes), or get the Clintons back for the general election. Then, whether the Clintons win or lose the general election, we’ll slide further into the muck.
Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic
religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing
in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now
New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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