Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

20 February, 2007

The problem with Hillary (updated)

The emerging mainstream narrative about Senator Hillary Clinton is that she refuses to admit she made an error in 2002 when she (and 76 other senators, including all of the Democratic senators with presidential aspirations who were in office at the time) voted to give President Bush a blank check for Iraq. The idea, of course, is that voters want to be assured that she learned something from the experience, that she'll work to prevent similar abrogations of the public trust in the future.

Bob Somerby has been railing against this meme for the past several weeks (a task whose futility is akin to spitting into a gale), pointing out that all the way back in 2004, Clinton stated there never would have been a vote on Iraq if only they had known then what they know now. While I think it's disingenuous for any candidate to pretend they didn't foresee the trainwreck that Iraq has become (I certainly did, and I'm a lowly nobody from the provinces with zero-access to classified intelligence reports), I'm satisfied that she has indeed learned as much as any other senator who has repudiated from that particular mistake (although, like Somerby, I'm perplexed by her campaign's refusal to call the vote a "mistake") [updated on 2/20/07 at 1:45 PM].

That this meme won't die is indicative of the contempt with which many on the left hold Hillary. Right now that contempt is being pegged on her Iraq stance - particularly on the whole contrived she-won't-say-she's-sorry-even-though-she's-owned-up-to-her-mistake bit. Some folks think she'll do anything to win (like any other top-tier presidential nominee - c'mon folks, politicians pander!). Others are miffed about her inexplicable stances used to prove her patriotic bona fides (such as her stance on flag-burning).

For me, the problem with Hillary is that she reeks of entrenched power. From the air of inevitability her campaign is striving to create, to her longstanding membership on the Democratic Leadership Council, to her locking up of the big corporate donors, right on down to her husband, who I hear is somewhat well-connected, Senator Clinton is the embodiment of the Establishment candidate.

Now, I'm not so naïve as to believe that anyone making a serious bid doesn't need to do some cozying up to the fat cats; I don't like it, but I know that's how the game is played. However, the aggressiveness with which she's locked up the big backers (and the enthusiasm with which her backers are supporting her) makes my spidey-sense tingle. In order to solve the myriad problems facing this country and the world, it's going to be necessary to stand up to the big-money interests which set much of the political agenda. Given the dense number of connections that Senator Clinton has with these same interests, I'm not convinced that she'd be willing or able to face them down when push came to shove. And that's a huge problem, way bigger than her inability to utter the word "mistake" at a campaign event.

[updated on 2/20/07 at 1:59 PM]: Pericles at dKos has a good take on MistakeGate that I think pretty much sums up the problem with Hillary.

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