December 22, 2005


The Trouble With Hillary: How running for president, alas, makes her even less likable. (Kurt Andersen, New York Magazine)

Each time John McCain stoops to commit some purely, nakedly political act, like campaigning for George W. Bush’s reelection or giving his okay to the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, I cringe. There are so few national politicians wired to speak candidly, from the heart and the hip, that I have a soft spot for almost all of them—Bob Kerrey, sure, but also Bob Dole and Bill Weld, even nuts like Jesse Ventura. So when McCain behaves like a normal politician, it’s a disturbing departure from my Frank Capra script for him.

The same kind of gesture from Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, simply confirms what one thinks already, since the script for her (more Cukor, less Capra) is all about cool calculation and calibration in service to the main chance. She is, after all, the feminist who at age 35, seven years married, started calling herself Hillary Rodham Clinton in order to give her husband a better chance at winning back the governorship in old-fashioned Arkansas. So when she announced the other day that she was signing on as a co-sponsor of a new anti-flag-desecration bill—Look at me! I’m jerking right!—it seemed in character. It was one more fragment of evidence, unattractive but inevitable, that she is not really running for reelection to the Senate from New York.

Duh. But I still found it disheartening. Not because I imagine the Flag Protection Act poses any serious jeopardy to free speech. Rather, as an exemplary gesture by the presumptive 2008 nominee, it was a vivid small example of the routine, ritual dishonesty that infuses our political discourse so thoroughly.

The intellectual classes have this odd notion that politics should be divorced from what normal people want, then wonder why Americans despise them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2005 8:53 AM

He cringes when a politician engages in politics? The world does not act according to the script he has written for it? He is surprised and saddened that other people will do things that those people perceive will better their interests rather than the arbitrary "common good" he has chosen? He somehow expected things to be different?

I wonder if he is allowed to leave his apartment without his governess coming along to keep him from getting hurt by that nasty world. I think the dear boy ought to become a bitter recluse and cut all contact with the rest of us. He'll be hapier - and so will we.

Posted by: Mikey at December 22, 2005 9:20 AM

Aside from Anderson cringing when McCain fails to do something to divide the Republican Party (which he and others in the media believe was the reason they created John McCain in the first place), the really funny thing about this rant is if you went back 8-10 years and looked at the same group's musings about the missus, they would say there was no political calculation involved -- well, except for that dropping the Rodham name thing, and that was only because of the troglodyte voters in Arkansas.

Hillary's motives were as pure as the driven snow in their eyes, just as long as her motives were in line with their motives, and she was seen as the one who would keep Bill reliabily liberal. But what Bill and Hillary learned from 1994 onward still hasn't made a dent in the big media pundits' brains, though it finally has opened their eyes to the fact that (gasp!) the reliable liberal they elected as Senator in 2000, knowing then that she had presidential ambitions, would actually adjust her voting record in Washington to have a chance to be elected president.

They thought they were electing the second coming of George McGovern in 2000, and are shocked now that they've got the distaff Joe Lieberman on their hands. Hillary may in the end restore their faith by going back on all the issues she's supporting now, if she's elected in 2008, but it's hard to see the missus doing that right after getting into office, with memories of 1993-94 in her mind and a 2012 election to win.

Posted by: John at December 22, 2005 9:39 AM

Americans are idiots. I don't really see what the issue is here. You really see Hillary as a class apart from the rest of the ranks of overpriveleged who hold public office? Do you think that even the most stupid sounding, and un-intellectual political personalities (hint: George W. Bush) does not have a staff of highly-educated types working to maintain this stupid image?

Posted by: Grog at December 22, 2005 10:14 AM


Ah, the clarion cry of the Left: "Americans are idiots!"

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2005 10:27 AM

Once again, you missed my point OJ. I don't think George Bush is really an idiot. I think he is told by smart people to act like one.

Posted by: Grog at December 22, 2005 11:09 AM

Thats not to say that the most intelligent people in the world don't live in America, but I mean that for all of our wealth we are for the most part very dumbed down compared to the rest of the developed world, which I blame mostly on television/industrialization of the media, and a certain sort of laziness that breeds ignorance.

Posted by: Grog at December 22, 2005 11:13 AM


Stop digging.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2005 11:23 AM


The simple things are the hard things.

The average hard-working lower-middle class American 'knows' more about life than 90% of the Upper West Side or Marin County, and more than almost all Europeans.

So, Americans are 'dumbed-down'. From what? To what should they aspire?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 22, 2005 11:26 AM

Lets just for the moment, limit ourselves to political knowledge, world history, etc. Are you guys going to make hunt something down on the web to prove my point that Americans are far less aware of their history, their political system, and the histories of political systems in other countries? And this is what our democracy rests upon?

Ok, lets just forget for a second that I said Americans are idiots, and get back to my real point? About Hillary and GW being carefully manufactured images? And maybe, as long as were at it, the damaging effects of intellectual bashing?

Posted by: Grog at December 22, 2005 11:47 AM


No, we agree that Americans are what you would consider idiots and that Europeans are intellectuals. That's the genius of our culture and why they're dying.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2005 11:53 AM

OJ: Must you always think in terms of stereotypes?
True, I said Americans are idiots, but by that I mean that they are politically misinformed or ignorant. And that is backed up. There are plenty of intellectuals in America, and you slander their opinion by calling it European. You seem to want it both ways.

Posted by: Grog at December 22, 2005 12:38 PM

No. One way. Americans are indeed stupid. Intellectuals are smart. Smart is bad.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2005 12:43 PM

You are one funny dude. You follow up this sentence: "Must you always think in terms of stereotypes?" with this one: "True, I said Americans are idiots, but by that I mean that they are politically misinformed or ignorant." That is funny, funny stuff.

Posted by: b at December 22, 2005 1:10 PM

One of the things us stupid folk know is that stereotypes exist because they're true.

Posted by: oj at December 22, 2005 1:13 PM

Grog, bitter rants never won -
Oh why bother. You're right, you're much to bright for us poor, dumb Americans.
See ya.

Posted by: Mikey at December 22, 2005 2:56 PM

I freely (and without embarrassment) admit that a high percentage of Americans are quite ignorant of the rest of the world. The problem is, this is just as true of the rest of the world vis-a-vis America. Remember the horrible article by that British writer going on about Olive Garden? Remember all the French politicians who thought we would take "cowboy" as they meant it--a slur--rather than as a badge of honor?

Posted by: Kirk Parker at December 22, 2005 3:10 PM

Grog -- get some new material.

Posted by: erp at December 22, 2005 4:07 PM


I doubt if contemporary Germans know the story behind the burning of the Reichstag.

I doubt if contemporary Frogs know much about Vichy.

I doubt if contemporary Brits know that their army turned over tens of thousands (probably more) prisoners to Stalin, knowing they would be killed.

I doubt if contemporary Italians know much about Roman history and/or the Punic Wars.

When you talk about ignorance of world history, sure, most Americans don't know that much about it. But the people who 'abuse' that gap the most are those who cling to their myths. The Right has its myths, and the Left has its myths, too. My question to you - which group trumpets its myths louder? Which group fights against history harder?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 22, 2005 8:47 PM

Grog -- get some new material.

Well, it seems groggy (or someone with the same moniker) is trying the same "Americans is stoopid" shtick at Sound Politics, and achieveing about the same results as he's gotten here. But, assuming that he's infesting that site because he lives here in the Upper Left Washington, maybe he does know something about stupidity, at least those holding office— after all, he's one of those people responsible for inflicting Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray on the rest of the country.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 23, 2005 1:24 AM

Everyone: Ok.....I heard you guys the first ten
You really see Hillary as a class apart from the rest of the ranks of overpriveleged who hold public office? Do you think that even the most stupid sounding, and un-intellectual political personalities (hint: George W. Bush) does not have a staff of highly-educated types working to maintain this stupid image?

Posted by: Grog at December 23, 2005 4:13 AM


An interesting question. If playing dumb were such an obviously useful concept, you would expect most every politician to do it, and it's clear that many do not. In fact, a number of politicians come across as elitist knows-it-alls (see Presidential Election, 2004 Democratic candidate).

It would appear that, like most people, politicians have personality traits that are difficult to alter or change on cue, and that their handlers try to accentuate their strong points rather than change their personalities wholesale.

In President Bush's case, he happens to have certain problems with the English language that make him look stupid to a Beltway audience composed of professional communicators. But his m.o. isn't tough to figure out: He generally says what he's going to do and then does it, which for some reason makes him a completely baffling figure to certain people. That fits well with his personality and I doubt his handlers have anything to do with it. If anything, I suspect that they occasionally advise him to act differently. But that wouldn't be in character.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 23, 2005 6:14 AM


The professionals you bring in are too smart to do stupid. An Ike, a Reagan, or a Bush are at their popular best when not being "handled."

Bill Clinton, like Nixon, longed to be seen as an intellectual and so underachieved. Hillary may suffer from the same poor self image. We'll see.

Posted by: oj at December 23, 2005 7:43 AM