Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

28 February 2008

Senator Clinton, Please Step Aside!

Dear Senator Clinton,

The time has come for you to accept the inevitable. You will not be president of the United States.

That fact is not entirely your fault. You were a credible candidate, and you waged a valiant campaign. Over your political life, you have done good things to improve children’s health care and the lives of ordinary Americans.

But your campaign has hit a wall. Everyone seems to know it now but you.

Women and men all over our nation gave you every benefit of the doubt. They hoped not only that you would be the woman who could become president. They also hoped you would give gender discrimination the coup de grace by governing better than the vast majority of men. Now even the most ardent feminists are losing that hope.

What has happened? Have you done something wrong? Not really. Your biggest mistake was voting to invade Iraq without reading the NIE, but you can’t go back and change history.

Gail Collins said it best today. You are a good candidate and had a good campaign. But you are up against a once-in-a-century candidate, in a critical period when voters are paying extraordinary attention. As Collins put it,
    “[You] might have been able to handle all that, and the fact that [Obama] is a product of Kansas and Hawaii and Kenya, of Christians and Muslims, of a single mom on food stamps and Harvard Law, if he didn’t also turn out to have the best learning curve in political history.”

Your last bastion has crumbled. You used to be the better debater. But no longer. In Austin and in Cleveland, Senator Obama showed himself more skillful, more substantive, more incisive, more relaxed and confident, and generally more gracious. As Collins acknowledged, he is one of the smartest people—and one of the quickest learners—ever to enter presidential politics. The fact that he has been right and prescient on the most important issues facing our nation didn’t hurt.

If the truth be told, your distinguishing characteristic is not your gender. You are a lawyer’s lawyer. You have run every minute of your campaign like a zealous advocate, splitting every hair, giving no quarter, and conceding nothing.

You have never acknowledged personal error in your fateful and ill-informed vote to invade Iraq. You have never said, honestly and openly, “I was wrong.” As recently as two days ago, you said, “I regret deeply that President Bush waged a preemptive war, which I warned against and said I disagreed with.” (Emphasis added.)

Like a zealous lawyer defending a client’s presumed innocence, you never acknowledge an iota of personal responsibility. In disputing Senator Obama’s indisputably better judgment on this critical issue, you have split hair after hair.

On health care, you want to have it both ways. You claim that your plan would insure far more people than Senator Obama’s. You know that the only difference between the two plans is your mandates on adults without children. Yet you failed even to acknowledge that mandates will hurt some people, as Massachusetts’ actual experience has shown. With mandates, some folks pay fines or suffer other penalties and still have no insurance. By refusing to take the bad with the good in your plan, you played the zealous advocate well but insulted our intelligence.

Like a lawyer playing on a jury’s prejudices, you have tried to divide us. First you labeled Senator Obama the “black” candidate. That didn’t work. People recognized him for what he is: a mixed-race candidate with strong appeal even to folks who have never known an African-American well. Then you tried to exploit differences between Latinos and African-Americans. The jury on that ploy is still out: it seemed to work in Nevada and California, but it probably won’t win in Texas.

Finally, in Cleveland, you tried to turn Jews against Obama. You associated him with the anti-Semitism of Louis Farrahkan, whose only conceivable relationship to Obama is shared African ancestry and Farrakhan’s support for Obama, not vice versa. As a Jew, I wish I could make you understand how low, mean and small that attempt made you look in my eyes.

But there again, you played the consummate lawyer. You split hairs. When Senator Obama reported he had “denounced” Farrakhan, you demurred. Denouncing wasn’t good enough, you said; Obama should “reject.” And so Obama did, in a gracious concession that will become an enduring classic of presidential debates. “[I]f the word ‘reject’ . . . is stronger than the word ‘denounce,’” he said, “then I’m happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.”

As Senator Obama demolished your hair-splitting attempt to divide us, I and millions of Americans recalled your husband disputing what the meaning of “is” is. Bill also knows the lawyer’s trade well.

Your pedal-to-the-metal lawyer’s approach may have done us all a service. Despite the “legalization” permeating our society and our culture, millions of Americans still have not gone to law school. They have never immersed themselves in our adversary system or studied its rich history.

Thanks to your effort, these millions now understand—deep in their gut—that hair-splitting, take-no-prisoners advocacy is not the best way to solve difficult problems in the real world, or even to address them honestly. They know for certain that zealous advocacy will not heal wounds of division, stop our precipitous national decline, or banish hard times. They want a problem solver, not a lawyer, to lead us. They want someone who will concede the right in order to serve the greater good.

That is why, even if by some miracle you are nominated, you will lose to John McCain.

Now that you have taught us this lesson so magnificently, it is time for you to leave the stage. Further demonstration would only damage your persona and your party and tarnish the Clinton legacy, if any gleam from it remains.

Your humble servant,



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