Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why Hillary Won

Karl Rove's commentary about the New Hampshire primary in the Wall Street Journal is a surprisingly insightful read. Commenters to other blog posts about Rove's piece disagree, one going so far as saying that Rove is racist when he describes Obama as lazy. (Actually, lazy may be going too far: lackluster may be a better word for Obama's political career.)

The thing is, I agree with Rove. Here is my take on how Obama has gone wrong recently.

Bob Rae wrote a blog post about Obama's Iowa victory speech, saying he "was inspired by the passion and decency" and including a video of the speech. I have a lot of respect for Bob's opinions so I made myself watch the speech twice, but I have a very different opinion of it. I found it overly emotional; I find the preachy style to be manipulative and creepy and had trouble forcing myself to listen to it. I found his ideas hypocritical; for example, he said he's going to "end the strategy that's been all about division" and "end the politics where we tear each other down", but he's not doing that at all, both in that he's running a negative campaign against Hillary and that one of his main points of attack is on the Clintonian use of triangulation as a political tactic, even though it's a pretty effective way to bridge differences (and not as cynical as it's sometimes made out to be). Obama has been praised for his delivery, but as Rove points out, Obama was the only candidate of either party who used a teleprompter, and I found his swivelling his head from side to side to read the words to be clumsy and distracting.

Obama has been consistently iffy in the debates. His strength is reading speeches and looking handsome, not speaking to the issues.

Nobody's talking about it much, but the odd comment creeps into the news that Obama is not a very nice guy. He apparently has a bad temper and gets very grouchy. This side of him was revealed to the world in the debate last week when he said, very ungraciously, "You're likable enough, Hillary."

Finally, I don't like this emphasis on "change". "Change" is too vague. "Change" could be all sorts of crap I don't agree with. "Change" is all about emotion and not about how to take on the incredible challenges of a post-Bush world, which will include a huge deficit that will tie the hands of the next president.

While Obama has been increasingly disappointing me, Hillary has been getting better and better. She said in New Hampshire that she'd found her voice, and I think she has. She has a difficult challenge in that regard: in our sexist world, almost any approach she takes is going to be attacked. To guard against being attacked for being weak, she went strong: then she was attacked for being too "masculine"; and so on. I think the delivery and tone of her recent addresses have been miles above what she was doing previously; the message remains essentially the same, and has always appealed to me in its specificity and pragmatism.

It's a tough road for Hillary and the pundits are still predicting an Obama win, but I'm happy as long as she's a contender. Last fall Time magazine wrote, "Is America ready for a woman president?" They would never have said such a thing about a black president. The hurdles for women are far greater than they are for priviledged members of minorities, and the possibility of a woman in power is much more threatening. But a woman can dream.



jeffjrstewart said...

Don't be fooled by Rove. Before he left the White House, he confidently and happily predicted that Hillary, a "fatally flawed" candidate (i.e someone the Republicans can take down), would win the primaries. Indeed, all the matchups show that Clinton stands a good chance of losing against many Republican candidates.

Obama shows the opposite- matches show that he would win against any Republican candidate.

That puts a scare in the Republicans. Don't think you can trust Rove- he's not off the job yet, and he's a great writer and very good at leading people on without them knowing it. But if you look carefully, you'll see that that essay is basically a sly attack piece on Obama. Check out the quaint shots about teleprompters that subtly portray him as not the real deal like everyone thinks he is, disguised as innocent, detached commentary.

Rove has never had a good thing to say about Clinton. I'm a little up in the air about Obama too...but don't let Rove influence your judgment.

Anonymous said...

A more interesting analysis is why obama won in Iowa. hillary sould have won NH and did. They had supported her heavily for over a year. The demographics were standard.

What happened in Iowa a very strange very young voter turnout. Chrismas break?? Imported from out of state with lax residency regulations???

An astute commentator on Fox's O'Reilly said he believes that single mothers couldn't caucus for 2 to 3 hours in Iowa and did't want to leave their children with strangers, even though babysitting was offered. Also older people ie seniors are also less likelyto want to argue or justify a position or even stay out late enough for a 3 hour caucus.

The numbers that were expected to turn out and support HIllary, turned ouut and supported HIllary in NH. It was normal. The strange rules and proceedures that can be very taxing and arduous and long in Iowa may have had more to do with the result than anything.

There a reason why voting was made anonymous, so there is no pressure. Even whenn pollin gpeople there can be psychological reasons why people dont want to say who they are supporting. i never anser polsters. I always say I dont know, eventhough I do for example.

Voting should be anonymous and secret and private. Cuacuses should never involve public heckling or convincing or argueing, which ithe Iowa caucuses do.

In secret ballot voting, aka the norm. A normal demographic shows up and votes in a normal or expected pattern. Most of the states opperate in this manner, many are even closed to independents.

I think the result will be what we have seen for the past year, a Clinton win. Obama may do better than expected, but a standard proceedure doesnt favour him, only a very strange and arduous proceedure in Iowa.

Anonymous said...

Another point. Obama's speeches are absolutely preachy and creepy.

As far as him being grouchy, he recently quit smoking, which might explain it, but interestingly that speaks to addiction issues that no one seems to want to touch in this race which will come up in the general election. Karl Rove will be the first in line to highlight it as an Obama weakness and character flaw.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, bush was a instrument of change wasnt he? and anyway if obame want to change things, how is he going to do it? lobyists give a lot of money to congressman and senators, cant change anything there, if anything, we would be looking at, ...gridlock, and confrontation and eventually, nothing will be done, lets face it, one man in the white house cant change the system...they have to have one that knows how to work with the opposion over there, in other words,,,clinton.