Overreaction   (2015Apr13)


Monday, April 13, 2015                                 12:03 PM

Yesterday CNN had a parade of talking heads using Hillary Clinton’s eminent YouTube announcement as an excuse to dish about her, her husband, her detractors, her unauthorized biographers, and how she is simultaneously the same as Obama and worse than Obama. I heard very little factual material and a landslide of attack, dismissal, insinuation, and extrapolation—but CNN isn’t famous for reeling off mountains of data these days, so no big surprise there. The only thing that struck me was how their tone leaned so far towards FOX, and had so little MSNBC to it.

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They expressed their editorial opinion, so here’s mine. Hillary Clinton is no saint, but neither is she the devil. She’s a world-class politician and a pretty good one. Any comment that fails to give her at least that much credit is serving someone else’s agenda, whether it’s the Tea Party, the Libertarians, or the media’s need for ‘sensations’. Anyone who tries to tie her character to her husband’s sexual misbehavior is reaching. And those who make a media feast out of her emails should really have some ‘dirt’ to point to, rather than trying to make her email system itself sound nebulously nefarious. But having prefaced the Email flap with the Benghazi snipe-hunt, we now know that actual wrong-doing is unnecessary to the Hillary-hunters.

Few media voices want to endanger their ratings by pointing out that the profusion of manufactured scandals is evidence of a total lack of any real wrong-doing—God forbid they inject any fairness into their rabble-rousing. One could make the case that this is good for Ms. Clinton—if she had done any actual wrong, the media will be too busy with their BS to find out about it. But while the media dances on the surface of things, there are truly dedicated right-wingers that will dig and dig—so I don’t think we need to worry about any of her actions being overlooked by her critics–except, of course, anything praiseworthy.

Neither am I prepared to give the same carte blanche to Hillary Clinton that I’ve allowed President Obama over his two terms—his mistakes display a surfeit of idealism, while her career has been more obviously a political battle. Plus, his symbolism as the first African-American president required some engagement with this country’s difficulties with race relations, whereas Hillary’s election as the first female president would be a self-contained achievement, without requiring that she ‘cure sexism’ in America.

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Hillary Clinton, like most good politicians, is a mediator, a compromiser. She is far more interested in reaching across the aisle than any of her right-wing challengers. She is not trying to take us backwards in time, to repeal science, or to institute a theocracy. She doesn’t show the same bitter antipathy to her competitors that they show towards her. She’s the sensible choice for this country—and that’s her biggest problem.

How can the sensible candidate win in a country whose eyes and ears, the media, refuse to consider anything less exciting than a schoolyard brawl? They adore the divisive ignorance of Ted Cruz or Rand Paul—how exciting it is to see these jokers challenge observed reality! The media can’t be expected to waste time on the dusty business of governing, as discussed by Hillary Clinton, when they have mind-bending yahoos to cut to—people that not only say the craziest things, but never bore us with the sleep-inducing details of realpolitik.

Reince Priebus, the head of the GOP, claims that people don’t trust Hillary Clinton—and it is true that anyone listening to the GOP, as far back as the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, would have plenty of reason to question her honesty. But since the GOP has an entire news-network devoted to spreading right-wing falsehoods and misrepresentations, and Hillary has only a private email server, we must hear echoes of the pot calling out the kettle’ in that idiot, Priebus’s, observation that “the country deserves better than Clinton”. If we listen to the GOP, this country deserves bigotry, violence and plutocracy—and they don’t believe Hillary will give us nearly as much of those things as they can. That, somehow, I believe.

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Media-mouths like to say that Hillary avoids talking about foreign policy because the administration of which she was Secretary of State saw the rise of terrorist groups like ISIS and Boko-Haram. To me, this is patently short-sighted. Dubya was the one who brought hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to a country that we had no business invading. When Obama tried to draw down our military presence, the damage had already been done. We had begun a civil war among Middle Eastern Muslim sects, Sunni and Shia, before we were fully aware that Muslims had sects—hell, our training manuals for Iraqi soldiers were originally printed in Arabic, even though Iraqis speak Persian—that’s how little we understood the people we attacked so precipitately.

Like Bush’s financial crash, these things take time to repair. Obama took a lot of criticism for not fixing our economy the day after he was sworn in, with very little being said about the causes of the problem he tried so urgently (and ultimately, successfully) to fix. Bush’s invasion of the Middle East created a far bigger mess, and will take more time to fix. Until that time, the GOP will continue to criticize the Democrats for failing to fix what the GOP has broken. That is their strategy—blame, accusation, and the assumption that nothing they do is wrong.

That strategy’s success depends on our willingness to think like Ellen DeGeneres’s fish character in “Finding Nemo”—we forget anything that happened more than thirty seconds ago. I am burdened with memories of how the actions of fifty years ago, of twenty years ago, or of ten years ago led to the circumstances of the present—I could never be a member of the GOP because I believe in cause and effect.

But the dysfunction of the GOP has its counterpart in the Democrats’ lack of spine—it’s as if the Democrats, who don’t lie as professionally as the GOP, are nonetheless afraid to tell the truth. They may not act like the GOP, but they appear to believe that their constituents are as immune to facts as the Tea Party’s supporters. And I believe this accounts for the lack of Democrats showing up to vote—in and among, of course, our national disregard for that most essential of democratic activities.

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Many supporters want a ‘firebrand’ to challenge Hillary Clinton for the nomination—usually either Bernie Sands or Liz Warren—but they don’t want to run for President. Their messages are too polarizing, and their overall experience in matters of state falls far below the level of Ms. Clinton’s CV. Their presidencies would just be Obama-all-over-again, without the overt racism. It would be thrilling—the media would love it—but our federal government’s dysfunction would only deepen.

The GOP has taken control of both houses of Congress—but they are stuck for a presidential candidate who isn’t outright laughable—even to themselves. So the question becomes: what Democratic president will best be able to do business with them? Hillary Clinton, for all their venomous attitudes towards her, is much more a member of their species than any of the more idealist Democrats capturing media attention today. Even the GOP’s rank sexism, so overbearing towards women in general, would work against them when dealing with a lady president. She’s perfect—and that’s the media’s problem with her. She’s a bit too ‘on the nose’ for their agenda, which is “Controversy, twenty-four, seven”.

In summary, I’ll be voting for Hillary in 2016—and I won’t change my mind because of GOP smear tactics or media scandal-mongering. She may not be perfect, but she’s perfect for the job at hand. And no one with better experience or better credentials is going to rise up out of obscurity because, if there was such a person, they’ve had ample opportunity to show their face already. And anyone who appears so will simply be someone so new to the national stage that we don’t really know anything about them.

Hillary has been out there, giving as good as she got, since Bill was elected—any newcomer’s advantage will be only that—that they’re new. And in a job with a built-in minimum age limit, meant to exclude the inexperienced, the last thing we need is New. Besides, it’s time for the “Land of Opportunity” to legitimize its nickname by electing its first female head of state. And all you non-atheists out there can get down on your knees and thank God that it wasn’t Sarah Palin.

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