I’m running into a lot of blog posts and articles like this:
(T)o watch Obama v. Clinton is to be reminded of watching Ali v. Foreman. The de facto knockout blow is about to be delivered tomorrow in the snowy streets of New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton certainly won’t drop out after her loss; she will stagger on but prove unable to stop Obama. And to watch the Clintons’ rage and desperation grow in the last days of this campaign will not be pretty. They will lash out at everyone, including Obama, the media, her own campaign, and maybe, eventually, each other.
This is a couple not known for their grace or for holding lightly to their grip on power.
There are many things to say about the deeper meaning of this moment and what its passing will signify. Suffice it to say that it will be good, very good, for us to say farewell to the couple that brought you Carville, Begala, Blumenthal, and Ickes; the “war room,” the use of private investigators, and attacks on women like Dolly Kyle Browning, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and Kathleen Willey; impeachment for perjurious, false and misleading testimony to a grand jury; contempt of court findings; the promiscuous smearing of those whom they viewed as threat to their power; the charges of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and assurances that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”; and so much more.
Or, more pithily:
R.I.P., THE CLINTON ERA, 9:34 P.M. EST.
Get your kids out and put them in front of the TV: The Clinton Era officially ended at 9:34 p.m. EST when Edwards paired with Obama to bury Hillary as a non-agent of change.
I’d expand it. We’ve reached the end of what will be called the Bush-Clinton Era. You can’t explain the Clintons without the Bushes. You can’t explain Bush without the Clintons. It’s been going on since the conventions of 1988, when George H.W. Bush said “Read my lips,” and Bill Clinton said much, much more in a horrible nominating speech for Michael Dukakis, then went on “The Tonight Show” to make fun of himself.
The Bush “machine” and the Clinton “machine” each run much the same way; a thin veneer of idealism over a “back off, chump” culture of intimidation. Kennedys, but without the charm and poetry.
Bush’s presidency ushered in Clinton’s in many ways. His success in the Gulf War scared off stronger and more qualified Democratic challengers like Mario Cuomo, who thought a second Bush term was a foregone conclusion. Bush’s victory over Dukakis had already convinced some Democratic leaders that the party’s 70s-era liberalism needed to be moderated if the party was ever going to win again. Only with those two developments could a Clinton nomination have been possible.
Then add Ross Perot. It’s pretty clear that his presidential campaign of 1992 had as much to do with harming Bush as advancing an agenda. There was some bad blood there — some dark and probably well-earned grudge against the Bush clan. If Perot hadn’t have been on the ballot as an independent in 1992, Bush probably would’ve won. (Perot’s presence on the ballot also denied Clinton a majority in 1996.)
Clinton’s cycles of failure and success incubated George W. Bush’s political career. The second Bush copied key elements of Clinton’s success while exploiting his failures. He governed Texas as a moderate, and ran in 2000 as a “compassionate conservative,” a kind of tribute to Clinton’s “Third Way.” Like Clinton, Bush was a candidate of confessions, but he did Clinton one better by pronouncing Christianity as his salvation from the bottle.
Still, Bush would’ve had no chance against Al Gore if it wasn’t for the political damage inflicted on him by Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky affair and the various fundraising scandals. All the other conditions were perfect for Gore’s success. But he couldn’t capitalize because he was tainted by Clinton sleaze.
Who wasn’t tainted by Clinton sleaze? Surprisingly, Hillary Clinton. In what must have struck Gore in the middle of many nights as a horrible irony, he lost but Bill’s wife won a seat in the Senate.
Then 9/11/01 happened. Much of the politics of the past seven years has been reacting to that event. Both the incumbent but relatively new Bush Administration and the predecessor Clinton Administration were implicated for policy failures that led directly to the terrorist attack’s success. How much each Administration was to blame became a defining political dynamic ever since. 9/11 empowered Bush to invade Iraq, which he couldn’t have done without getting nervous Democrats like Hillary to support him.
Hillary Clinton’s vote (as well as John Kerry’s) to grant Bush war authority was like a poison pill for her presidential ambitions. Her only strategy for getting elected in 2008 was “inevitability,” but the war vote was a chink in that armor that a candidate not implicated in the war could exploit. And Barack Obama has done that — and so much more.
But the real reason the Bush-Clinton era has ended? We’re just tired of these people. We’re tired of criticizing them and we’re tired of defending them. We’re tired of how every day of the past three Administrations, stretching back 20 years, has been about a permanent campaign. We’re tired of the “derangement-syndromes” each family has stimulated in the body politic — the conspiracy theories, the name-calling, the gossip, the investigations. Yes, we’re glad to wave goodbye to Carville, Begala and the rest, but we’re also glad to send Karl Rove and Dick Cheney off with them. All these despised family retainers.
So what about this video?
Is she crying because she knows her time has come and gone? Hillary’s favorite phrase to describe herself was “tireless advocate,” but she looks awfully tired. You know she won’t let go of the hope that her campaign can succeed, but Clinton is no longer capable of being the underdog.
It’s dismal to be where she is right now — in free-fall, according to the polls, running against a candidate, Obama, who is almost immune to criticism right now no matter what happens. How does she keep going…knowing that defeat is almost inevitable?