Monday, June 09, 2008

A Failure of Moral Leadership

I've been meaning to comment on this (h/t Andrew Sullivan).

This time out, as Duncan Black keeps pointing out, the elephant in the room is the Iraq war. If Hillary hadn’t decided to play it safe and let the rumpus room warriors have their way, she would be the nominee and everyone would be saying “Barack who?” She thought she was being shrewd, and it blew up in her face. That vote lost her the nomination, and yet the “analysts” and pundits are scrupulously avoiding talking about it. The war decided this primary, and it will decide the vote in November as well.

In her essay about self-respect (it’s in Slouching Towards Bethlehem), Joan Didion writes that without integrity, ”one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.” I’m not a Hillary hater, but I think that sentence sums up this turning point in her political career. The country needed more from her than what she was ready to give, and now she gets nothing.

That about sums it up. But it was more than the Iraq vote. It's clear that for the Clinton's, the era of Bill's two terms (won with less than 50% majorities both times, BTW) is to be remembered with deep longing and gratitude. But neither Clinton seems to recall that the Democratic Party in general, and liberalism in particular, were essentially forced into exile after 1994.

Not all of that was Bill Clinton's fault. In fact, despite its failure, the Clinton's attempt to provide universal health insurance was admirable and risky. President Bill was also pretty solid on abortion rights and allowing gays in the military. Again, for all the flack "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has received, it's easy to forget that Clinton at least raised the issue and attempted to find a solution.

Nevertheless, the nineties are not grand memories for many of us. Things only got worse after the 2000 election, although for the Clinton's the carpetbagger election of Hillary to a U.S. Senate seat in NY probably allayed some of the disappointment felt by Democrats that year.

Then of course there was the very difficult period between 9/11 and the March 2003 Iraq invasion when Democrats were either cowed into sanctioning the neocon's war or risk finding themselves the targets of the Republican Noise Machine, accused of aiding and abetting terrorist enemies, being a fifth column of opposition to Amerika, and so forth.

As I said, these were very difficult times and Hillary was as good as absent from this country and from the liberal world for all the little she did. I don't recall her ever being a "fighter" during this period or through the 2006 elections, when the only attention she received or encouraged was that related to her inevitable presidential run.

"The country needed more from her than what she was ready to give, and now she gets nothing. "

No comments: