Monday, May 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton, Part 1: She can do it.

A proud confession: I am a Hillary Clinton supporter. Which doesn't mean I'm anti-Barack Obama: I adore him. But I think Hillary is an extraordinarily talented and admirable woman. I'm proud that she didn't sit down and shut up in this campaign. I think she would make an incredible president -- and I still think she would be a better one than Barack.

The reason I think this is not because of her campaign, which undeniably has had many flaws. Beginning not with anything that came out of her mouth (or out of Bill's) but with her assumption about how to manage a campaign: she was blindsided by the creativity of Obama, by how he reached out to new voters for votes and for funds. Get with the program, Hillary: (1) The internet is nothing new, and we are living in a digital world, and (2) We've lost the past two presidential elections doing things the old way and need to think out of the box, make the pie bigger, to win this one. And she hasn't -- she's tried campaign the old way, only more perfectly -- which I have found disappointing.

The reason I put campaign blunders aside and support Hillary is that she is a superb politician. "Politician" in its uncharged sense, as someone who is adept at navigating politics. She entered the Senate and immediately became effective. She overcame resistence based on the perceptions of her (just a wife, just a carpetbagger, pushy, frankly partisan) to become someone who could work collegially with anyone on either side of the aisle. She has in fact not been frankly partisan: she is someone who knows how to work relationships and how to compromise to get things done.

Barack may be able to free us from partisanship through his vision and how he expresses it, but Hillary has shown she can do it through her actions.

Which is, I think, one of the two major flaws in her ability to become president: you can't run for a party nomination by showing how effective you are at working with the other party. All the Republican Senators who appreciate and respect Hillary are campaigning for the other party. So she has had to draw on her experiences as a former First Lady. To me this is not as persuasive as what she's accomplished as an elected official.

The bipartisanship argument is something to observe with John McCain, who wants to convince Democratic voters that his bipartisanship earns him their vote. What if Clinton and McCain ran against each other: would they debate who was more bipartisan? That's where actual values come in.

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