Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Proof of America's Short Term Memory

In the news recently, there has been talk about a "buyer's remorse" among Democrats regarding President Barack Obama. This was brought on by a recent poll, which showed that Hillary Clinton is the most popular politician in America these days. Because of the close and long-fought Democratic primary in 2008 between the two historic candidates, it was inevitable that the supporters of the losing candidate would say, "I told you so!" at some point in the winning candidate's presidency. However, doing so is ridiculous because all it proves is that Hillary supporters are suffering from mass amnesia.

First, the polling data. Its pretty consistent with polling data from different administrations. Americans are notoriously ignorant of the world beyond our borders and most Americans don't pay attention to foreign policy. Of course the Secretary of State is going to have good approval ratings. There's a sense of deference as well as respect for the office of America's top ambassador to the rest of the world. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also enjoyed the highest approval ratings in the Bush Administration. Hillary's popularity, however, also runs deep among foreigners, as she is viewed as a rock star to young girls all over the planet.

For those who really believe that Hillary's high approval ratings reflect how she would be as president, let's refresh our memories, shall we? Let's turn the clock back to the 1990s, okay? Remember how hated she was? From the campaign trail to her Health Care Reform fiasco. She had high negatives and many of her critics compared her to a Shrew or Lady Macbeth. Jokes were told about her being the true president (not Bill). She was accused of being a lesbian, a conspirator, and even a murderer (of Vince Foster, who had committed suicide, which even prosecutor Ken Starr had determined in his hundred million dollar investigation into every nook and cranny of the Clintons' personal lives).

In 2008, voters weren't just feeling "Bush fatigue", there was also the argument that if Hillary became president, our country would be ruled by two political families for 24 years (Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton from 1989 to 2013 or 2017). That's an entire generation and more fitting a dynasty than a democracy. I'm certain that the "Bush-Clinton fatigue" played at least a small part in the desire for a fresh face in the White House.

Hillary was vilified in the 1990s. It was some of the most vicious speculation and commentary that I've ever seen regarding a First Lady. She was far more controversial than the Dragon Lady herself, Nancy Reagan. After Clinton's reelection in 1996, Hillary reverted to a more traditional role as First Lady. She did more foreign trips and built up relationships that way. Then, when Clinton's sex scandal became the obsession of our national media for the entire year 1998, sympathy for Hillary increased. The unanswered question is, if not for the Lewinsky scandal, would Hillary have even had a chance at the open New York Senate seat? We'll never know that alternative history.

If she became our president, instead of Obama, you can most certainly bet that the rightwing would be as vicious towards her as they have been towards Obama. Ever since the days of Nixon, there is a large faction of Republicans who will not accept a Democratic president at all. They will do everything in their power and influence to character assassinate the Democratic president. Jimmy Carter was undone by the Iran hostage crisis, the oil shocks and stagflation of the late 1970s. Bill Clinton's personal moral standards set him up for a devastating fall, as Republicans spent more than a hundred million dollars to find the silver bullet to destroy his presidency. They had to settle for a legal disposition in which Clinton had lied about having any sexual relationships with an intern, which became the basis for the un-Constitutional impeachment charges and trial. This had little to do with justice and more to do with revenge for Nixon being hounded out of office. And even though their beloved George W. Bush had so devastated the country with his ruinous policies, the rabid rightwing still has to demonize the Democratic president Barack Obama, calling him a fascist / communist / socialist, accusing him of "palling around with terrorists" and wanting to kill grannies and handicapped kids with "death panels", of being a foreigner or even, a secret Al Qaeda agent to bring down the country. Signs showing Obama in white face revealed the true ugliness of the opposition. The extremities of their complaints about him are so beyond the norms. The hyperbole of the critiques have little correlation to real life. In actuality, Obama is governing as a competent Republican. Which reminds me of a joke I hear in Democratic circles: "If you want a competent Republican as president, vote Democratic!"

So, let's get real here and be honest about what we know. If Hillary Clinton had been our president these past few years, she would be every bit as scrutinized as Obama has been. She would be just as unpopular among Republicans. She would face the same hostile, opposition Congress. Why? Because the rightwing truly hated the Clintons. Perhaps another hundred million dollar investigation would be unleashed to look into every facet of their private lives again. Also, as the first woman president, Hillary would face harsh scrutiny. Standard bearers always do. Thus why Obama is having a rough patch. Someone I can't remember wrote an editorial that said he believed that Obama would only be appreciated as president long after he has moved beyond the White House. Obama is trying to change the culture by being an example, first. However, his lofty view of politics (he obviously really believes what he had said at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in the speech that made his career) might not be what our country needs right now. We need a fighter, not a unifier (especially when the opposition will always view him as an enemy). On that point, I will concede that Hillary Clinton would have been a better fighter for Democratic interests.

The pointless speculation is a waste of time, though. I don't remember hearing much talk in the media about wishing that Gore or McCain had been president instead of Bush. I think it is safe to assume that either of those men (or Bradley, too) would have been far superior as a leader than Bush turned out to be. All this wishful thinking, though, doesn't change the fact that we live in the current reality where President Barack Obama is our leader. If you don't support his presidency, we have a whole host of rightwing extremists wanting to assume leadership of our country. Bill Clinton was correct when he pointed out that Dick Cheney's recent commentary that Hillary should run in 2012 is nothing more than cynicism and an attempt to divide the Democratic Party so that the Republicans can return to power. So, Democrats, stop your sniveling and get on board. I don't want to endure another Republican presidency. Well, at least not until Senator Scott Brown runs in 2016.


T said...

I think Elizabeth Warren may be the dem ticket for 2016 - IF she wins the senate seat. She's terrific.

Sansego said...

I like her, but I'm supporting Senator Scott Brown's reelection. He's the most likable Republican and one I would love to see as president someday. I see no reason for Massachusetts to get rid of him already. Warren should have run for Governor instead.