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It’s over. Maybe Hillary doesn’t know it yet. Almost assuredly Bill doesn’t. But it’s over.
And, no, I don’t just mean the Democratic presidential nomination process. I mean the whole shootin’ match. Obama is the nominee and Obama is the forty-fourth president of the United States. You heard it here first.
Sure, it’s possible for this thing to derail, not least because of an October Surprise abroad engineered by Dick Cheney to keep himself out of jail. But, short of that, fughedaboudit! And even that most despicable of classic political ploys may not work anymore. If anything, the Reverend Wright episode has demonstrated that the historically immature American electorate night just be angry and desperate enough not to be distracted this time by the latest Willie Horton ad or gay marriage spectacle. There are powerful signs that the old black magic doesn’t work anymore.
I watched some in the media talking about Clinton in the past tense Tuesday night, and interpreting her speech in Indiana as a valedictory. Do they really actually pay these bloviators to blunder all over my television screen? Heck, I’d get it right for a quarter of what these would-be pundits charge!
Let’s see here. She twice asked people to go to her website and contribute money. She made her astonishingly duplicitous case, dripping with hypocrisy, for ‘not disenfranchising the people of Florida and Michigan’. She beat the drum of her new issue – the summer gas tax repeal – no less than three times. She began with that idiotic line – complete with that idiotic pasted-on clown-face smile of hers – quoting Obama about calling Indiana the tie-breaker (which state she then proceeded to nearly lose). She’s out there this week campaigning and fundraising.
And, my favorite of all, her campaign apparently invented yet another criterion for choosing the party’s nominee, one that all the rest of us are supposed to take seriously, just like the others. Remember when we began, and it was all about getting the necessary 2,025 delegates? But when that started to look like it might not happen, every other week we got a new metric, depending which particular stock happened to be rising or falling at the time. Talk about your moving goal posts! Hillary should get the nomination because she was winning swing states. Nope, make that big states. Nope, make that non-caucus states. (Because caucus states are, er… Well, just because.) Anyhow, make that states that will have the most Electoral College votes after November. Nope, make that the popular vote. Nope, that doesn’t work either.
Are you ready for this one? Last night her people were saying that the nomination should now require more than 2,025 delegates to secure. Why? Well, because…, because… Because that’s the only possible way for her to win, Silly! And, after all, what other criteria could possibly matter? Dang, if Al Gore had had the legal team of Clinton and Clinton arguing his case in 2000, the Supreme Court would have given him the presidency just to make them go away. Oh, and about a million Iraqis would be alive today that now aren’t.
Even after getting whacked upside the haid by the big stick called North Carolina, I don’t see her going anywhere. In West Virginia the day after the primaries, she opined that it was “still early” – even though 50 out of the 56 nominating contests are now in the bag. I talked with someone the same day who expressed admiration for her tenacity. I would actually share that opinion, especially as I frequently vent about spineless Democrats, except for one small detail. The problem, as I pointed out, is that she’s tenacious as a pit bull, but only when it comes to… her. Does anyone seriously think this about her unshakable commitment to getting you a better healthcare plan than Obama’s? Or her full-blown dedication to pulling out of Iraq on about the same timetable he would use? Or her steadfast loyalty to the three triple-indent sub-items of her 21-point education plan that are different from his? Let’s get serious here. She is indefatigable about only one thing, and that is advancing her own personal interests.
People are finally – finally – getting hip to the Clintons. Finally understanding that everything – and I mean everything – is about them. If that means wrecking the Democratic Party (again), so be it. If that means voting for a Mesopotamian holocaust on the basis of transparent lies in order to gain the presidency, so be it. If that means playing the race card like any good Republican candidate would, so be it. And if that means taking down Obama in order to at least improve her chances for 2012, well… You know the drill. If you’re capable of sacrificing a million people to get the presidency, you can probably still face yourself in the mirror if you take down one junior senator from Illinois.
But it ain’t flyin’ anymore. People are just really sick and tired with the old school and the damage it has wrought. It’s way, way overdue, but I must say I like the way this election is shaping up rather a lot. The regressive burn-out retreads are imploding in debt and failure. The Clintons have destroyed their (utterly false) reputations for integrity, let alone competence, and dumped over $11 million of their own money into the bankrupt corporation called Hillary 2008. That is an outcome that could not be more well deserved. McCain and his biblical blight of a political party is next, and I have little doubt of their fate.
Meanwhile, though, I doubt seriously that Billary is through yet. In a continual act of supreme selfishness for which nobody outside the GOP can top them, they will keep on fighting, using whatever desperate techniques they can find, tearing down their party and their party’s nominee. But it probably won’t work, and the act is fast wearing thin. Much more likely is that they will instead destroy any hope they might ever have of taking another shot at the White House, while he leads the party to victory. Jesus Christ, somebody pinch me, wouldya? Last time I had a dream this good, it required a clean-up crew.
The only real question remaining on the Democratic side is who will the VP choice be. Poor Obama. On the one hand, he kinda has to ask Clinton. Her supporters are gonna be pretty insulted if he doesn’t. On the other, he’d be pretty crazy to do so. Can anyone see Hillary, let alone Bill, taking a back seat to President Obama? Keeping their mouths shut and staying out of mischief for eight years? And let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton is still Hillary Clinton. Her negatives overwhelm her positives throughout the country, more so even than they did before this campaign. She certainly won’t add votes to the ticket. All she does is keep some of them from defecting.
Meanwhile, though, her calculation would be just as difficult. All she wants is to be president. So, does she run with him, hope they lose, then try again in 2012? Does she run with him, then try to run as the heir apparent in 2016, when she’s 68 years old? Or does she sit it out while he wins, and then run against him in 2012, even if he has a successful first term?
There are two ways this question could be made moot, either of which would be pretty beneficial to Obama. The first looks likely. She just never lets go. She just keeps trying every scam, every angle, every destructive ploy to snatch the nomination in Denver. By that time, she would have so alienated the rest of the party that Obama could safely ignore her without having to pay a great price. The other possibility would be for him to offer her the VP slot and her turn it down, in which case he could choose someone else without paying a penalty.
But who? A woman would be an obvious choice. Missouri senator Claire McCaskill seems like she’s bucking for the job, regularly flacking for Obama on television every chance she gets. Barbara Boxer would obviously be a better choice from the perspective of lefties, but not from the perspective of winning the race. Anyhow, a female candidate would broaden his appeal in some sectors, and would instantly – dare I say it – emasculate Hillary Clinton’s entire raison d’être as a notable in American politics. Once you take the Mrs. out of Mrs. Clinton, she’s just another politician, and not a very appealing one either. Jumping another woman over her head and closer to the White House – especially a much more likable one – would completely marginalize Hillary, rendering her forever irrelevant in presidential politics. But the most important question is electability, and I doubt this strategy would help Obama much there. A young black man and a not so well known woman is probably more change than a lot of voters can handle all at once.
What Obama needs – especially going up against a Republican, especially in wartime, and especially a John McCain – is some serious national security gravitas. In this respect, I might be tempted to draft Admiral William Fallon for a running mate. Maybe the guy has bad politics, and maybe he would be a bad politician – though he’s spent a lot of time at a much related task, doing diplomacy in the Pacific and the Middle East. I don’t know.
What I do know is that he opposed the surge. That he wanted to draw down forces in Iraq and redeploy to Afghanistan. That he supposedly (Fallon apparently denies it) called General Petraeus an “ass-kissing little chickenshit” for carrying the administration’s water by selling its Iraq policy at home. And that he just got fired from his job as top American military commander in the Central Command (Middle East), probably because he overtly opposed a US attack on Iran, and could be counted on to do so again on D-Day.
Who else could instantly give Obama national security bona fides while simultaneously eviscerating McCain’s advantage in that domain? Who else could speak with credibility against an October attack on Iran, and save the Democratic bid for the White House in 2008, if BushCo tries such a ploy? Americans hate Bush and they hate his war and they don’t want a third one. All they need to make the leap is some Colin Powell-like dude to give them permission to think for themselves. Since we know Powell won’t be providing that particular service in this lifetime, perhaps Fallon could. McCain would look pretty silly arguing for more stupidity in Iraq against a guy who was the actual commander of the theater. And McCain’s own raison d’être – the politician who was once a war hero – would also be slashed in significance up against another cat who also flew naval combat sorties in Vietnam and elsewhere. Obama could do lots worse than Fallon.
This election has been a harrowing ride in so many respects, and it’s not even half over yet. But for quite some time now it has been hinting at the promise of a great cosmic reconciling. Americans are showing a degree of perceptual astuteness which has been on holiday at Disney World for a good decade or so. Those who have been doing nasty things to this country and the world now seem to be getting back a dose of their own polluted karma. Weenies are being labeled as such, after too long having gotten a free ride masquerading as feel-your-pain emotion sponges, or compassionate conservatives.
And, the guy who has run the most progressive campaign, the smartest and the least pandering of all, is actually winning.
To be a progressive in America is to condemn yourself to a lifetime of disappointment, watching your country lurch from political stupidity to imbecilic tragedy, watching every decent candidate you’ve ever supported getting hammered and humiliated, and you along with them, by proxy.
Dare I say it? This year feels different.
DAVID MICHAEL GREEN is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (firstname.lastname@example.org), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.