Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hillary's Week

Everyone's been commenting on Hillary Clinton's two big boosts this week: her very fine performance at the Benghazi hearings, and Biden's decision not to run. It's strange (and symptomatic of the quality of political punditry) that no one's thought to note the third - and greatest - boost: Jeb Bush's fade. He's laid off of 40% of his staff due to lack of hard money (the sort of funds that pay payrolls, as opposed to his hundreds of millions in soft money - i.e. super PAC funds usable for blitzing ads).

A Clinton vs Bush showdown would bore the bejesus out of both sides of the equation, especially in an election where extreme political boredom has boosted out-of-the-mold candidates like Trump, Carson, and Sanders. Clinton vs Bush apathy would have disproportionally affected Democrats and independents (re the old chestnut: "Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line"), but there's nothing boring about Clinton vs Rubio. So Bush's fade was the best news for Hillary Clinton all week.

Speaking of the Benghazi hearings, I watched the last couple hours and was impressed. For two decades, Mrs. Clinton has been mostly an enormous Thanksgiving parade balloon head to me. Like Oprah Winfrey, she's seemed to have been celebrated mostly for her indefatigable omnipresence; I never quite understood what either of them was actually good at, aside from an unshakable core of preternatural self-satisfaction. Merely "being a strong, successful woman", at this late date (when there are lots of them out there) seems like an awfully sparse trigger for mass adulation.

But at those hearings (for which she was, obviously, prepped within an inch of her life, but still), she seemed solid. Not just calculating, but highly competent, controlled, level-headed, and steady. I hadn't seen this side before, and these are very good qualities for a president. I can't even look at Clinton when she's campaigning (where she projects nothing so much as smug neediness and vapidity), but she struck me as exactly the kind of steady decision-maker who'd make a good president*.

But I am (depending on his eventual running mate) still for Lessig.

There's something Obama keeps repeating which has finally sunk in for me: no easy decisions reach the president, so he's constantly choosing between distasteful options. This explains why so many decisions inevitably disappoint a president's supporters; the latitude simply isn't as wide as we'd imagine. Obama, whatever you think of him, has been brilliant at the long game of choosing moderately distasteful solutions which, in the aggregate, push his principles forward long run.

I think this is really pretty much the whole gig; the ability to cooly, nimbly take the two steps backward that will, in time, spur situations three steps forward. George W Bush and Ronald Reagan profoundly lacked this ability; they operated from conviction in blunt gestures, never letting prickly details confuse their "clarity". After watching Hillary Clinton at the Benghazi hearings, I'm above all convinced she has a deep facility (which I can't imagine to be matched by any current candidate; certainly not Bernie Sanders) for the sort of detail-informed pragmatic decision-making which, again, is pretty much the whole gig.

Maybe it's not that she's a cold-blooded calculator/triangulator, after all. Maybe she's just highly deliberate and thoughtful.

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