The Logic Behind the “Vice President Clinton” Meme

11 01 2012

Happy New Year, now let’s talk politics, specifically that long forgotten subject – Democratic politics.

ImageOk, maybe forgotten is pushing it a bit too far, but with the Republican primary process well and truly underway and the incumbent Democratic president running unchallenged, there’s not much for us on the left to do politically except remark on the dog and pony show of ultra-conservatism that’s bumbling its way around the country. I suppose that it’s that kind of party boredom that’s mostly to blame for this kind of story, but there might just be more to it. The latest incarnation of the “Hillary for VP” meme comes from a New York Times opinion piece by Bill Keller published Monday and another in the Washington Post by Suzi Parker from yesterday. The points they makes are much the same as in most of the other renditions of this tune that’s been playing off and on almost since this administration began, but there has been a decidedly different reaction to the notion of Secretary Clinton and Vice President Biden switching places this time around. It’s no longer treated as some crazy idea being floated by Clinton diehards (highly unlikely) or desperate Obama fans (also ridiculous) that has no basis in reality let alone fact. Monday night this opinion piece was discussed all over the place on cable news in spite of it being the day before the New Hampshire primary and discussed with some degree of seriousness albeit prefaced by numerous “this will never happen”-type comments. The truth is that, no matter how unlikely the scenario, you never know. I mean, did you think that the question of whether or no states can ban contraception would be a question in this year’s presidential primary debates at this time four years ago?

“Ok, so it’s a thing, but why and how would it work?” you ask. Well, even though I’m in no way involved in national politics or punditry (Not that I wouldn’t like to be, in case anyone in those fields is looking to hire. 🙂 ), I have just as good an imagination as the rest of them, so, if you would like, let’s take a stroll around Speculationville. We’ll start with the “why”.

2008 was the year of Hope and Change. The nation was weary of war and increasingly unnerved by the steepening decline in our economy. People were looking for something fresh and optimistic – a feel good candidate – and they found that in the calm persona of “No Drama Obama”. There is, however, a downside to being seen as Mr. Cool and that’s running the risk of looking too ‘on point’ and scripted. Obama needed a foil that brought a more approachable, down to earth ‘average Joe’ quality to the ticket and they got just that in an ever likable, if chronically gaffe-prone, senator from Delaware by the name of Joe Biden. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the past four years, the mood of the country has shifted. Our idealistic search for something new has given way to old cries, from the eighties and even earlier, of “fat cats” and “corporate greed” versus a shrinking middle class and growing number of people on some form of government assistance leading some candidates to insinuate that these lower-income people are lazy. It’s all remarkably similar to the Reagan era arguments about “welfare Queens” and the financial culture of hostile takeovers and Gordon Gekko types running the show on Wall St. At the same time we have seen the rise of the Tea Party culminating in the Great Butt-Kicking of 2010 which flipped the balance of power in the House of Representatives and shifted the political dialogue of the entire country well to the right of anywhere I’ve ever seen it. The moderates, Republican and Democrat alike, were excised in favor of more partisan candidates and the resulting Congress has been deadlocked ever since. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve almost-but-not-quite shut down the government. Is it four times now? Six? I don’t remember.

So this year is shaping up to be a Smackdown election worthy of a Pay Per View cage match and the respective political parties are looking for prize fighters. The Republicans are looking for a defender of tax cuts and a champion of smaller government and business interests. The Democrats are looking for fighter for workers and the middle class and a protector of programs that they see as vital. What Democrats have is a very mellow, professorial president with an affable everyman as his VP. The Republicans are searching and re-searching their candidate field in the vain hope that one of their potential nominees is the much longed for second coming of Ronald Reagan and Democrats are kind of left to pine for their second coming of FDR.

The Democratic presidential candidate is decided by default, or should I say incumbency, but there is still that unfulfilled desire for a fighter. Someone who will have no problem going a couple of rounds with the Republicans on the Hill, conservative pundits, or maybe both at once without flinching. Joe Biden, as likable as he is, doesn’t strike most people as a tough guy, so regardless of the good job he’s done, he’s not necessarily what a lot of Democrats are looking for this time around. If there is one thing that Hillary Clinton is known for, it is her strength and her tenacity and throughout her time as both a political spouse and a political figure in her own right she has never, ever had any problems with taking it to Republicans at all. There was one instance during one of her husband’s gubernatorial races when she crashed a press conference his opponent was holding to criticize the then Governor for being out of state and Mrs. Governor Clinton took him on herself. I don’t think anyone has any doubt that she’d know how to handle these tea folk and that’s why I think this rumor never quite goes away. The fact that she’s the most popular government figure in the country right now doesn’t hurt either.

The mechanics of how a Biden/Clinton switch would happen takes us deeper into the realm of completely unsubstantiated guessing games. It’s worth noting that removing Biden from the ticket does have some serious drawbacks. Just look at the coverage the replacement of White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley got even though it was primary time in New Hampshire. That would increase exponentially if it were Joe Biden that was on his way out, even if it was just to head down to Foggy Bottom. Coverage like that is rarely a net positive. It would look bad to demote someone who has been such a loyal and hardworking member of the administration. It could also be spun out as a sort of Hail Mary play by a desperate candidate and put the new Obama/Clinton campaign on the defensive from the get go.

For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that the administration had weighed their options and decided that the switch was both possible and worth the risk. Hillary Clinton would have to leave the State Department before the swap was announced because, by law, a Secretary of State can not play a role in domestic politics. Her pretext for doing so is anyone’s guess, but it would not be due to any difference of opinion between her and the White House, obviously. She’s mentioned retirement enough that an announcement to that effect might be the way she’d go, take a couple of months off to rally her people, and then, on some beautiful afternoon in the Rose Garden, there she’d be – as Barack Obama’s new running mate. Immediately the question would be raised – the question that is always raised where Hillary Clinton is concerned. What about Bill?

In the years since he left office, Bill Clinton has become an elder statesman par excellence. His foundation is involved in numerous charitable endeavors the world over and his annual Clinton Global Initiative event is such a big deal that he has to hold it on the same week as the UN General Assembly so as to be more convenient for his international attendees who are going to the UN anyway. He also has a Global Initiative specifically for undergrad and graduate students interested in NGO work which his daughter play a significant role in. He was named the Obama Administration’s Special Envoy to Haiti after that country was decimated by an earthquake. He has appeared several times in support of the President’s economic agenda and has proven to be a rather good surrogate seeming to have learned from his mistakes in his wife’s presidential bid. He has also written two books. In short, he’s got a lot going on and some of that work might present a conflict of interest if his wife was the vice presidential nominee. He had to make significant changes in order for her to become Secretary of State and I imagine that he would have to make more if she was second in line to run the country. My feeling is that he’d leave most of the foundation’s operations in someone else’s hands. In addition to getting rid of any perceived conflicts, it would also be a sort of trial run for the organization to see how it would operate when Bill Clinton retires. During this time the foundation could be prepared to run for decades and become a part of Bill Clinton’s legacy as opposed to his pet project. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the globe-trotting former president held a press conference, heaped praise upon his wife, headed out on the campaign trail, and then to DC. His elder statesman skills might come in handy and he could prove to be an asset to the administration, a kind of Eleanor Roosevelt to Hillary’s FDR.

I’ll end my completely amateur, uninformed, armchair analysis by saying that this whole thing is about as likely as me appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition… or voting Republican. It’s all conjecture and the conjecture of someone with no inside information, but I’ve heard too much about this idea being entirely bogus and it’s not. It’s certainly unlikely, but it’s not bogus and that’s why I sketched it out this way. Hillary Clinton would be good for Barack Obama in the same way that New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie is such a good surrogate for Mitt Romney, another “Mr. Cool, Calm, and Collected”. She is a veteran of many partisan fights and would make a good “Iron Lady for the Middle Class” if that’s what the administration thinks they need in 2012. I think this issue is hinged on what the traveling circus that is the Republican primary constructs for a message and a ticket. If it’s something like Romney/Christie, there might be a new, and yet very familiar, running mate for the President.





The Debt Ceiling Debate Summed Up in One Photo

21 07 2011

In case you and no idea, I’m a geek – specifically, a political geek. And not just a Daily Show/Colbert Report fan political geek either, but a Politico-reading, Rachel Maddow Show-watching one. Did I mention my job is covering town meetings for Government Access TV? Yeah that much of a geek. The results of my geekiness is that I’ve learned a lot about the debate going on in DC about whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. I could get into the issue, but I’m not sure anyone would be interested in the opinion of someone who gets no say in the matter. Honestly, I really think this about sums it up.

Nancy Pelosi looks appalled, John Boehner seems on the verge of tears, and the President is pouting. We do not have a deal, folks! Back to the drawing board!





Snow, Chaos, and the Merchant of Hate

12 01 2011

According to this, we got the most snow this state has ever seen in one day. That’s saying something considering the state is Connecticut. It’s up to my hips. I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow at one time. I have dug out and am feeling the results.

This is the Amalfi Coast in Italy and that is where I have been wishing I was all day today. The warm sun, a glass of wine, and gorgeous men sounds great right now.

There’s too much going on in the aftermath of the shooting in Arizona, my previous post‘s topic not to go back to it and, since I couldn’t do much other than dig out I’ve had a decent amount of time to work on this. Here is my opus magnum. On Monday evening, Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor that those calling for the political debate in this country to take a more civil tone in the wake of the shooting of a congresswoman “Merchants of Hate” because some on the left had taken the opportunity to go after various conservative voices, naming them as potential (unintentional) accessories to the crime before anything was known about the shooter. Go figure. He singled out national publication which had specified specific individuals like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann or groups like the Tea Party-ites, conservatives, or the right in general but expanded his point to include anyone who had put out ideas about lowering the intensity level of our nation’s partisan tone. So you say “can’t we all treat each other properly ’cause somebody could get hurt” and you’re labeled a Merchant of Hate.

I expected being an evil, nation-destroying villain would be different to tell you the truth. I mean, do I get a costume? Do I get a scythe? A mace? A cat o’ nine tails? It seems like a Merchant of Hate should have something dangerous, painful, and medieval in their hand. I’m envisioning a combination of the grim reaper, a ringwraith, and a dominatrix (or the male version thereof). “Beware, you are in the presence of a Merchant of Hate. Hey, are those BBQ potato chips? Sweet!”

Mr. O’Reilly also made a claim that it was all due to a great liberal fear of the left-wing dissolving. That’s madness plain and simple. The left-wing isn’t going anywhere. Even in the good old conservative days of Father Knows Best, mandatory prayer in schools, the acceptance of the use of every racial, ethnic, religious, and social slurs except those pertaining to white, protestant, middle or upper class men – the days before the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation, or the first Pride Parade was ever thought of – there was still a left-wing. Don’t believe me? Look up “Joe McCarthy” to see how scared they got people. They were always there and, no matter how small or large their number, conservatives have always been screaming that they would destroy the country and should be stopped. News flash, Mr. O’Reilly, the left is not going away. There’s been a political shift, a common occurrence in this country, but, barring some large-scale, Mao-style re-education effort or the far right wingnuts getting the right to make arrests on sedition or treason charges, there will still be a population of liberal thinkers in this country involved in politics, voting, and serving in elected office. If the our system of national government can accommodate the views of the likes of Ron Paul in can also handle those held by people like Nancy Pelosi and everyone else on the spectrum. It’s been making things work in spite of our elected officials’ flaws for 235 years and I have faith in it. I find it strange that some who would wrap themselves in the mantle of patriotism and Americana would view the building blocks of our country as so easily able to be broken. Come on, we’re stronger than that.

I might be a Merchant of Hate according to Mr. O’Reilly, but I stand by my statements in my last post. I don’t care what the shooter’s motive was. If thousands of people – not the usual punditry suspects, but average people – hear that a member of congress was shot and start talking about tempering political rhetoric, that should be a hint that maybe there’s a problem there. Why not be proactive and curb our collective enthusiasm before it gets someone hurt and for goodness sake don’t ramp it up just for the hell of it ,or because you like controversy, or because you think your base will love it. I still believe that the caustic nature of our national climate is unhealthy and should be diffused, not through the passage of legislation, but through a little self-restraint on the part of our leaders and those who put their political opinions out for all to see (myself included).

This evening, The President spoke at the University of Arizona at a memorial for the victims of this senseless act. His eloquence served him well. I found his thoughts about the youngest victim, nine-year old Christina Taylor Green – words about public service viewed as nobel through the innocent lenses of a child’s eyes. “I want to live up to her expectations,” he said. Why not try? Seriously, let’s make the effort. There’s no downside that I can see to treating politicians like people instead of demons. A few paragraphs back, I mention having faith in our governmental process. Well, since I’m in a quoting mood, Ella Grasso, the former governor of Connecticut – the first woman elected governor in her own right – is quoted as saying “It is not enough to profess faith in the democratic process; we must do something about it.” We need to do something about the way we debate. We need to not take the easy way out – the systematic shredding of an opponent’s humanity as opposed to taking them to task on the more academic, less sensational realm of stands on issues, and economic plans, and polling data and all the other nuts and bolts of policy wonkery. Another politician who is way before my time said in his inaugural address “So let us begin anew remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.” The topic of John F. Kennedy’s quote was the Cold War. Compared to that, partisan hyperbole seems a lot easier to handle.

If you missed it, this is the President’s speech and the University of Arizona.





My Attempted Book Review – Obama’s Wars

8 10 2010

Before I get into my review, I’m going to warn you that it’s not, strictly speaking, my thing. My cousin reviews books and authors a lot on her blog, but she is pursuing her MFA in creative fiction from Fairfield University and knows the technical components which distinguish a good book from a pile of dung with a dust jacket. Alas, she is not writing this review, I am. I apologize in advance.

The first thing that becomes clear when you start reading Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward’s latest foray inside the Oval Office, is that there was a lot of cooperation from the administration. An exposĂ© this is not. President Obama even sat for an on the record interview with Woodward. Quotes from that interview, which appears to have been conducted at the end of this process, are interspersed throughout the book. This is also not a light read by any stretch of the imagination. It’s packed with facts and figures. At 380 pages (hardcover version) I figured it would take me a day or so to read – it took five and then another day to review it. I liked it, but I like policy stuff. If you’re looking for suspense and fast-paced action, pick up some Tom Clancy. If you’re looking for some insight as to how military actions are decided upon in the Obama White House, this is the book for you.

This book is not going to make you like or hate any of the people in it if you don’t already but it does bring them down from their senior staff pedestals and humanizes them all a bit – some more than others. It also shows some people in a manner they aren’t usually seen. Joe Biden, the goofy, gaffe-prone Vice President comes across as a lot smarter than he’s usually given credit for being. General Petraeus, in addition to being an exemplary military man, is also quite the politician and knows how to get his friends in the Senate to make his case when he can’t. The mistakes made in Vietnam are never far from any of their minds and neither is politics – either the 2008 presidential race or the 2010 mid-terms. It’s omnipresent. The book also casts a harsh light on the situation in Afghanistan – just how bad things were over there, how much of the problem is in Pakistan, and the problems we face with our allies in those two countries. If you take one thing away from Obama’s Wars, it is that essentially “pausing” the conflict in Afghan was a huge mistake that left us in a very bad way.

I liked the book, but I’m a bit of a policy geek – well, I’m actually just a bit of a geek in general. If you to know what went on in the Situation Room that lead to 30,000 troops being sent to Afghanistan, it’s right here. It’s not action-packed, but it is what happened.





The Power of Perception – Israel, Oil, and Other Stuff

7 06 2010

This is a continuation of my previous post about the oil spill. Someone was kind enough to comment and I have so much to say, I needed a whole post to respond and elaborate on the topic.

For many, this photo sums up everything they feel about the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the game. Hurricane Katrina – from the evacuation through to the rebuilding (still in progress, BTW) – was bungled every which way until it was nothing short of a boondoggle, but one man, George W. Bush could not have single-handedly wrecked it no matter how hard he tried. I’m not say he didn’t mess up, I simply stating the fact that he wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of mistakes made by a whole bunch of people who did a shoddy job thinking that somewhere along the line someone would pick up the slack and no one did – administratively speaking, that is. There are big-hearted individuals and groups that have done incredible work. There are some that still are working down there.
As for that picture of President Bush the Younger peering down at a devastated New Orleans from Air Force One, it isn’t all that it seems. Yes, he flew over and didn’t land to see the true plight of the citizens, but there was a very good, practical reason. When Air Force One shows up, it’s not just an ordinary day in the neighborhood. The Secret Service has to work alongside local law enforcement and, given the totality of the destruction of the infrastructure and such, those agencies would have run the risk of not being there to protect the local population if they were devoting what resources they had to providing the level of protection a presidential visit requires. They decided the risk wasn’t worth taking. See, it’s quite a valid reason, but when people are suffering and dying, reasons for not doing things that are seen as helpful all sound a bit like cop outs.

This is currently the image of Obama and the oil spill. While not entirely reassuring, he is there on the beach and that’s something. If an image comes along that carries more emotion – one of an oil-soaked wetland littered with dean animals, or something like that – then he will hear more cries that he hasn’t done enough. He still can’t go and fix the well himself or make all the oil disappear, but he is doing what little he can.

In other news, last week Israeli commandos were involved in a violent incident while boarding a Turkish aid vessel attempting to break the blockade Israel has imposed upon the Gaza Strip. I’m not going to try to piece together what happened that night on that dark, crowded ship. All we know is that something went very wrong, people died, and many were injured at the hands of military personnel. The image of elite troops killing and wounding civilians is almost universally unpalatable. The result – serious discussions all over the world about the efficacy and ethical implications of the Israeli policy regarding Gaza. Usually, such dialogues result in fierce accusations of the people, groups, or countries involved being “anti-Israel” or “pro-terrorist”, but this time, under these conditions is seems as though we might be able to cut through the bullfunky and get to the point. Some in Israel itself are calling for a review of the way Israel handles Gaza. If you’re wondering where the US stands, the Secretary of State issued the following statement.

Just a note, this is not a picture from that press briefing, it's a picture from her October 2009 visit to Israel. Why didn't I use a picture from the briefing? Because the briefing was supposed to be about her bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of Romania and I wanted an US/Israel image. It was all for aesthetics.

MR. CROWLEY: On his last day of covering the State Department, Nick Kralev of The Washington Times.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Nick.

QUESTION: Hello.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We should sing Auld Lang Syne or something. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much even without doing it.

Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you a couple things about the Israeli situation which, as you know, is getting more and more serious by the day. I know there are many unknowns at this point, but do you accept Israel’s argument of self-defense? And do you think that the investigation should be done by Israel or by a third independent party, as other Security Council members have said?

And more broadly, we all know there are so many moving pieces to this. There’s Turkey, there’s Israel and in the Palestinians, there’s Iran, there’s Syria. What are the implications in your mind of this situation to the peace process and in the larger issues in the Middle East? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, on your last day, you’ve asked a very complicated set of interrelated questions. And let me put it into context as I respond. First, let me say how deeply we regret the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships, and we offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and the wounded.

Turkey and Israel are both good friends of the United States, and we are working with both to deal with the aftermath of this tragic incident.

The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy. And we urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately. We urge all concerned countries to work together to resolve the status of those who were part of this incident as soon as possible.

We support in the strongest terms the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation, and we will continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead.

The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel’s legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured.

We will continue to work closely with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority along with international NGOs and the United Nations to ensure adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction and building supplies. And we welcome efforts to promote the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate and internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

Ultimately, the solution to this conflict must be found through an agreement based on a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. This incident underscores the urgency of reaching this goal and we remain committed to working with both sides to move forward these negotiations.

I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned. But we fully support the Security Council’s action last night in issuing a presidential statement and we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for taking this question.

On an almost-related note, today Helen Thomas, veteran opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers’ and Dean of the White House Press Corps, retired today over inflammatory remarks about Israel – namely that they should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and “go home.” Obviously, these statements are incendiary to say the very least and especially given the fact that, against all odds, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are still set to begin soon. Kudos to George Mitchell. As for Ms. Thomas, she should have, and did, issue a statement of apology. She should not have been made to retire, but it’s fine with me if she chose to do so. She is approaching ninety after all. It is always unfortunate when an illustrious career is ended with a mind-bogglingly stupid comment or action. She broke a lot of ground for women in journalism, but will be remembered, in the short-term anyway, as the old woman who didn’t like Israel. Freedom of speech is protected, but it isn’t always popular and there are some things you just can’t say in public – especially if you’re “somebody”. Sorry, but that’s the way it goes.





Bon Voyage, Team USA!

28 05 2010

The US World Cup team visited the White House today for a meeting with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former President Bill Clinton who is Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid for the 2018 or 2022 World cup. (I posted about it here.) They posed for pictures under the North Portico. Truthfully, I have very little faith in our team’s chances – their first match is against England on June 12th – but I wish them all the best of luck even though I will be cheering, quite loudly as a matter of fact, for Italy. Joe Biden is planning to be at their first game and President Obama says he’ll be watching on TV. So, what stunning world of wisdom did Mr. Clinton have to impart on this occasion? He said he liked the team’s tan dress shoes. *Sigh*

Here is an article about the event and I’ve found a video of the send-off.

And, since I love pictures, I’ve found some of the event… and the shoes.

And, as promised, the shoes that all the boys in DC are talking about.





After the Glow Wears Off – Why Fandom Doesn’t Work With Politicians

26 05 2010

In the aftermath of the explosion of the Deep Water Horizon – that oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico – and the subsequent ecological catastrophe which is, as of right now, still intensifying something is happening in the minds of many Americans. They are realizing that Barack Obama, the President of the United States, is not a super hero. He cannot take out his Super-Duper Galactic Fix-It Ray and make the problem and all the foibles that come with trying to fix it just go away and neither can Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, or anyone else. Winning an election gets you a very big job, a place in the history books, and that’s it. The pants you put on in the morning may be bullet-proof – yes, they do exist – but you still put them on the same way anyone else does.

In the 2008 presidential election, particularly on the democratic side, much was made of the candidates’ personalities and whether or not they were “likable” enough. If it hadn’t been for that, I believe I’d be sitting here kvetching about the latest mistake President Clinton made – President Hillary Clinton, that is. She had everything – money, connections, experience – everything but a triple dose of charisma and that was her downfall. She couldn’t change who she was, so she lost. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the game. You have to be “likable” and you either are or you aren’t. For many people Barack Obama was The Man – the man to elect, the man to back, the man you’d want to have a beer with, just the man. In the world of Political High School, he was the captain of the football team and valedictorian all rolled into one while then-Senator Clinton was the jealous, geeky, overachiever on the debate team, and John McCain was the guy who played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. Neither of them had a chance in hindsight.
The problem with popularity in politics is, just like in high school, it’s fleeting. To be known simply as “popular” is to be unknown and invisible in a week’s time. Politics is a business fraught with unpopular positions. With some perpetually contentious issues like abortion, to take a firm stand one way or the other is to alienate a large section of the voting population. The only thing worse than taking a strong stand on a divisive issue is to take no stand at all. That just makes you look weak. If you manage to get elected, a whole new world of “un-likablity” opens up and is furthered by omnipresent mass media. Make one mistake, say one thing out of line, forget to smile at someone and it’s news and news always offends someone. Make a offhand comment about women in the workforce and someone will say you’re against stay-at-home moms and therefore single-handedly out to destroy the traditional American family. Question military expenses and you’re an evil, marxist, terrorist, hippy, America-hater. Innocently point out the good qualities of a colleague of the opposite sex, or of the same-sex if you are known by the public to be openly gay or lesbian, and you may very well end up being dragged by your sinificant other to couple’s counseling and have to explain yourself. Choose not to go to church and you become evil and completely anti-American even though there are plenty of Americans who don’t attend church and are also not enemies of the state.
These things all pale in comparison to what happens when a big problem comes along – unusually polarizing legislation, Supreme Court appointments, some sort of unforeseen tragedy. That’s when that cult of personality really begins to crack under the weight of the task at hand. It becomes blindingly clear that you can’t walk on water or fly or shoot lasers from your eyeballs. You’re still disappointingly human with only twenty-four hour days just like the rest of us. The pedestal you’ve been placed on by your supports erodes away from beneath your feet and you come tumbling down to earth to rejoin the rest of us mortals. People start to ask “What if? What if I’d pulled the other lever or checked the other box?” This is the predicament that our current president finds himself in. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the game. Presidents seem like they have more power than the rest of us and to some extent they do, but we forget they’re also astoundingly human. I could go into specific presidential examples of human frailty – the same problems we see every day in our own lives – but why bother. It’s all old news.
One would think that, in light of these recent events, we as a nation would be less inclined to idealize our political figures but it seems more prevalent today than it was two and a half years ago. For example, Sarah Palin could make a statement saying something needs to be acted upon and thousands of people would go out and make it happen regardless of what “it” actually is. The task is completely immaterial simply because Sarah Palin said “it” should be and they think Sarah Palin is the best human being that ever lived and is right all of the time. Ron Paul, the Congressman from Texas, has a similarly devoted and vocal following. Hillary Clinton, the current Secretary of State, still has quite a fan base even after her election lose and employment with the Obama administration, and some of them are fiercely loyal. Just search Clinton 2012 to see the kind of rumors bubbling up as campaign season approaches with all of these diehard fans lying in wait, though, historically, a primary challenger to the incumbent president has never won the nomination and only serves to split the party and make an election victory that much harder to achieve. Even so, hope springs eternal for some of her supporters who view her as the best hope for democrats in 2012. I say that’s a long ways off and a highly unlikely turn of events. Her high approval rating will plummet if she turns on the administration who employed her for three years or so. Nobody likes a turncoat not to mention that putting your sense of loyalty into question is never the best political move.
And what about Mr. Obama and his charisma? Well, while he may recover some popularity for one reason or another – these things go days by day – it’ll never be quite the same now that everyone knows he isn’t a super hero or a jedi knight or some other spectacular being. It’s like having a really attractive roommate. Everyone sees them as this Adonis-like figure, but you’ve seen them at their worst – hung-over, unhappy, angry, first thing in the morning – and you know that they have their moments just like anyone else. You can’t idealize someone after that because you know that they are no more or less than human.