Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Clinton's Gambit

  1. Chess. an opening in which a player seeks to obtain some advantage by sacrificing a pawn or piece.
  2. a calculated move by which one seeks to gain an advantage.
In 2005 I was sure, like a lot of people, that Hillary Clinton would run for president in 2008. And I was almost as sure that she would win. I knew that it would make the Republican wingnuts absolutely crazy so I was sure I would be glad to vote for her. It was soon after that I started to change my mind about her. I remember because that was when I saw this article on the Washington Post's web site, Star-Spangled Pandering, by Richard Cohen. He starts by citing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's views on flag burning.
The argument that this famously conservative member of the Supreme Court advanced -- actually, reiterated -- was that while he may or may not approve of flag burning, it was clear to him that it was a form of speech, a way of making a political statement, and that the First Amendment protected it. I could not agree more.

Clinton, apparently, could not agree less. Along with Sen. Robert Bennett, a Utah Republican, she has introduced a bill that would make flag burning illegal.

It was nearly the perfect pandering issue. Some, but not many, people are going to speak out in favor of free speech, when it's connected to burning the flag. Anyone who does will surely be branded by the other side as far left and anti-American. And almost no politician wants to appear to be someone who protects people who burn the flag. It was also then I started to notice that Hillary Clinton was beginning to tweak her image. To move as far as possible to the right. At the time it was probably the smart move. It was just after George Bush's election to his second term as president. And all the media were buzzing about "values voters" and the part they played in electing Bush to a second term.

It appeared that the electorate, at least the participating electorate, was leaning to the right and the election was almost 3 years away. She took the calculated risk that either the electorate would be in the same place when the election rolled around, or that they wouldn't remember how she tried to remake herself in the style of the politics du jour. That, along with her support for the war in Iraq, made me a lot less excited about the prospect of another Clinton in the White House. What good would it do to have a someone in the office who was a Democrat in name only? Someone who would pander to the same people and support the same policies that we'd suffered with for eight years.

More important than that is, if Senator Clinton could support a position that would weaken our most fundamental right as Americans, the First Amendment to the constitution, how could we expect her to stand up for and protect us against the assaults on the constitution that we've suffered under the Bush administration. The assaults on our rights to privacy through the NSA's warrantless surveillance of ordinary citizens, the Patriot Act, and human rights violations through use of torture, such as waterboarding and extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects, some of whom turned out to be innocent.

It was then that I started to hope, and I even came close to praying, that someone would present a viable alternative to Clinton in 2008 for the Democrats. At the time Barack Obama was busy dampening speculation that he would run, telling anyone that asked that it was too early to consider, and that he first had to concentrate on his job as senator. After An Inconvenient Truth, I held out hope for Al Gore.

After Barack Obama decided to run and even to win, I still held out little hope that he could beat the well funded, well-organized, politically calculating Clintons. After Super Tuesday and especially after last night, I am starting to believe that it's possible for the person who doesn't rely upon the polls and public opinion to determine their positions on the issues, can win. Clinton's gambit was that if she positioned herself in the right place in the political winds that she could sail smoothly into the White House. And John McCain is pretty much in the same boat on the Republican side. Positioning himself as well, more to the right in order to pander to his party's base. The great irony is that they both still inspire tremendous acrimony from the far right. And now they've lost a lot of us who stood with them at first. Serves them both right.

The voters are now making their first response, it appears in the end we will see Clinton's gambit declined.

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