Friday, January 25, 2008

The Same People...

who disappointed us very deeply not so long ago by blindly following Judith Miller's claims, vetted exclusively from Ahmad Chalabi, that there were in fact WMD in Iraq, have done it again. The editorial board of that "gold standard" of U.S. reporting, The New York Times, has endorsed Hillary Clinton on the following grounds:

It is unfair, especially after seven years of Mr. Bush’s inept leadership, but any Democrat will face tougher questioning about his or her fitness to be commander in chief. Mrs. Clinton has more than cleared that bar, using her years in the Senate well to immerse herself in national security issues, and has won the respect of world leaders and many in the American military. She would be a strong commander in chief.

She has cleared that bar? By immersing herself? She claims to have realized that the rationale for war was deeply flawed at about the same time as...the majority of the American people, ahem. She endorsed The Patriot Act. She's done nothing aggressive to challenge or even publicize the rise of Blackwater. She sniffed at the idea of "talking" to "rogue nations" without condition. As Bark, Bugs, Leaves and Lizards points out today, she's in favor of immediately deporting illegal immigrants who "commit a crime."

Domestically, Mrs. Clinton has tackled complex policy issues, sometimes failing. She has shown a willingness to learn and change. Her current proposals on health insurance reflect a clear shift from her first, famously disastrous foray into the issue. She has learned that powerful interests cannot simply be left out of the meetings. She understands that all Americans must be covered — but must be allowed to choose their coverage, including keeping their current plans. Mr. Obama may also be capable of tackling such issues, but we have not yet seen it. Voters have to judge candidates not just on the promise they hold, but also on the here and now.

I need a clearer sense of what "a willingness to learn and change" constitutes? I don't know about the learning, but the changing can be traced almost to the second with shifts in popular opinion. Sitting on the board of WalMart, for instance, she was willing to profit from what she had to know was a calculated devastation of rural America's economy. Later, when public sentiment against Walmart emerged, she "learned and changed." The same was true with her endorsement of an early version of the 2005 bankruptcy bill that severely jeopardizes middle-class families (and especially those who may need to file as a result of a catastrophic medical expense). As it was with her support for the war, her "learning and changing" come at a hefty cost, once considerable damage is done. Her "clear shift" from her "first, famously disastrous foray" into healthcare reform is a shift from demanding an approximation of the other, best-working systems offered in "The First World" to a shameless nod to insurance companies. Mandating health insurance--imposing a fine on those who cannot afford it--adds insult to injury for the uninsured. I understand that her plan is to make insurance affordable, but the mandate is frightening, given that mandates tend to stick while "price caps" do not.

The sense of possibility, of a generational shift, rouses Mr. Obama’s audiences and not just through rhetorical flourishes. He shows voters that he understands how much they hunger for a break with the Bush years, for leadership and vision and true bipartisanship. We hunger for that, too. But we need more specifics to go with his amorphous promise of a new governing majority, a clearer sense of how he would govern.

If I were a delusional narcissist, I'd think the NYT were just trying to piss me off with that one. But seriously, "bipartisanship" does not mean caving in to (and profiting from) corporate interests until your prospective voters notice. There was a time when I seriously wanted to support Hillary, but that was before I witnessed her following this pattern over and over.

If you've been following Hillary's comments in the debates, you too may notice that the endorsement sounds as though she wrote it herself. One member of the Editorial Board was a speech writer for Bill.

I'll still read your stuff, NYT Editorial Board, and some of it I will still respect and quote, and I am sure that this endorsement was not a unanimous decision, so I'll try to cut some slack on behalf of those among you who are probably more disappointed than I am. The rest of you, please demonstrate a willingness to learn and change, okay?

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