David Frum has generally become an interesting writer offering fresh perspectives–not least on the GOP to which he remains tenuously connected–but his CNN column on why Democrats should not “settle” for Hillary Clinton in 2016 via some “next-in-line” psychology is really flawed.
Democrats seem poised to choose their next presidential nominee the way Republicans often choose theirs: according to the principle of “next in line.”
Hillary Clinton came second in the nomination fight of 2008. If she were a Republican, that would make her a near-certainty to be nominated in 2016. Five of the past six Republican nominees had finished second in the previous round of primaries. (The sixth was George W. Bush, son of the most recent Republican president.)
Democrats, by contrast, prefer newcomers. Six of their eight nominees since 1972 had never sought national office before.
Obviously, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Democrats chose the next guy in line in 2000 — Vice President Al Gore — and they may well do so again. But speaking from across the aisle, it’s just this one observer’s opinion that Democrats would be poorly served by following the Republican example when President Obama’s term ends.
I’ve always thought the “next-in-line” explanation for Republican presidential politics was a considerable over-simplification, and actually wrong if it was used to suggest ideology matters less to conservatives than we’ve been led to believe. But even if you buy it entirely, comparing HRC to such next-in-line Republican pols as Poppy Bush in 1988, John McCain in 2008, and Mitt Romney in 2012 just doesn’t pass the smell test.
The three Republicans just mentioned never had overwhelming grassroots support in their own party and eventually prevailed over weak fields after relentlessly repositioning themselves to the Right. Both McCain and Romney, in particular, survived what can only be described as demolition derbies, and had to spend precious general-election resources pandering to the party “base.”
HRC’s immensely popular among grass-roots Democrats, not just because she is the last candidate not named Barack Obama who ran an effective presidential nomination contest, but because of the personal capital she’s built up over the years, her performance as a very popular Secretary of State, and the widely shared belief among progressives that it’s far past time for a woman to serve as president. Plus she is crushing every named Republican in early general-election trial heats.
Frum argues that an HRC nomination will inhibit the rise of fresh talent in the Donkey Party, and inhibit helpful intra-party debates. I’m all for fresh talent and helpful intra-party debates, but I’d say what Democrats probably want and need most is a 2016 victory to consolidate the policy achievements of the Obama administration while perhaps convincing Republicans the vicious obstructionism they’ve been exhibiting since 2009 is a dead end. Any way you slice it, though, treating HRC as another Mitt Romney is just laughable.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 1, 2013
Oh, that Lindsey Graham, that formerly moderate, mavericky senator from South Carolina. Only a day ago he was among eight senators who seemed to be defying the Tea Party gridlock of the last four years, joining together to back a “framework” for comprehensive immigration reform. Now he’s threatening to kill any legislation that includes protections for same-sex couples, growling to reporters, “Why don’t we just put legalized abortion in there and round it all out?”
An irritated Sen. John McCain, who’s now spent a full 24 hours looking like someone we haven’t seen in at least six years, shot back, “We haven’t even gotten that far yet. This is thrown out by the people who think we have gotten into the details, which we haven’t.”
Um, “thrown out by the people who think we have gotten into the details”? One of those people is one of your seven Senate partners, Sen. McCain.
That’s not the only crackpot Tea Party talking point from Graham over the last day. He also claimed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “got away with murder” on Benghazi, and threatened to put a hold on former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary because … well, there’s no connection between Hagel and Benghazi. Graham says he’s mad that outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hasn’t yet answered his questions about the Sept. 11 attack, so he’ll block Hagel, whom he’s already attacked as anti-Israel, which would seem to have nothing to do with Benghazi.
It seems Graham was too cowardly to stand up to his buddy McCain and block John Kerry’s nomination to replace Clinton, so he’ll target Hagel and make neocons and right-wing Tea Party Christianists happy at the same time.
Here’s what Graham actually said to Fox’s Greta von Susteren about Clinton Monday night. “I haven’t forgotten about Benghazi. Hillary Clinton got away with murder, in my view.” Now, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s using “got away with murder” figuratively, rather than saying Clinton murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens or the three other Americans who died in Benghazi last fall.
You can never be sure, though, since wingnuts have accused Clinton and her husband of murder before, from vicious theories disputing the suicide of Vince Foster to Rev. Jerry Falwell’s “Clinton Chronicles,” which accused the president of responsibility for “countless” murders. Even if Graham is just talking overexcitedly about last week’s hearings, he can count on the lunatic fringe of his target Tea Party base hearing the charge that the outgoing secretary of state “got away with murder” any way they like. And applauding.
It would seem that Graham’s short stint as one of eight “reasonable” senators had to be immediately followed by his return to crazy, in order to keep away the potential Tea Party primary challenge he fears most next year. As recently as the summer of 2010 he cooperated with Robert Draper’s admiring New York Times magazine profile, “Lindsey Graham, This Year’s Maverick,” in which Graham boasted of his unpopularity with the rising Tea Party and promised to continue to back legislation that would attract “Democrats and Republicans alike.” But that was barely a year into a new Senate term. Now, barely a year before his next campaign, Graham has ramped up the extremism, with a nasty crusade to block Susan Rice from the secretary of state’s job as well as regular insults to President Obama on politics and policy. (He told him to “man up” during the fiscal cliff negotiations.) The former moderate who once warned about the danger of not raising the debt ceiling openly brayed that his party should take it hostage again in January, then caved.
It’s a shame Graham’s moment of sanity on immigration reform didn’t last – but it was also predictable. Even during his maverick phase in 2010 he had a hissy fit when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid briefly prioritized immigration reform before climate change legislation Graham was set to co-sponsor with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. Even after Reid relented and put the climate change bill first, Graham refused to rejoin as co-sponsor. Look for him to play a similarly unreliable role on immigration reform, whether or not it contains protections for same-sex couples.
By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 29, 2013
Anyone truly concerned about the safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel abroad – and that should include every American – has fresh reason for fury over last September’s disaster in Benghazi and its aftermath. But the target of public anger should not be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose conduct has been exemplary ever since the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his brave colleagues lost their lives last September. Far more deserving of scorn are the likes of Rand Paul (R-KY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and all the other grandstanding, conspiracy-mongering, ill-informed politicians who questioned her Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Four months after the tragedy occurred, Republicans on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee still seem to be obsessed with the talking points provided to UN Ambassador Susan Rice before she appeared on television to discuss the incident. According to Republican folklore, unsupported by facts, the Obama White House engaged in a conspiracy to conceal the true nature of the terrorist attack by mischaracterizing it as a “demonstration.” The continuing focus on that trivial issue – long since explained by Rice herself, as well as retired General David Petraeus and others, under oath – understandably provoked an exasperated Clinton to scold Johnson, one of the dimmer idols of the Tea Party.
When the Wisconsin Republican began to harp on this topic yet again – interrupting her answer, after stupidly asserting that Clinton could have resolved any questions about the attack with “a very simple phone call” to the burned-out Benghazi compound – she responded sharply:
With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because there was a protest or was it because there were guys who went out for a walk one night who decided they would kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again.
No doubt Clinton’s utterly sane retort will undergo dishonest editing, in the style of James O’Keefe, to make her sound cavalier or arrogant. But it is the Republicans in Congress whose attitude toward the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen comrades has seemed cynical and false, ever since they first sought to exploit the incident politically during the presidential campaign. Meanwhile, having historically supported reductions in federal spending on diplomatic security, they have done nothing useful so far to enhance the safety of Americans serving abroad. Worse still, their questions to Clinton indicate that very few of them, even at this late date, have bothered to learn the basic facts surrounding the Benghazi incident.
By contrast, Clinton has assumed responsibility in a meaningful way ever since September 11 – which is to say that she has taken action to ensure a serious response. As required by law, she empowered an independent investigation, which resulted in dozens of recommendations for improved security and held several high-ranking State Department officials to account for the lapses in Libya. It is worth noting that Thomas Pickering, the distinguished former diplomat who led the probe, fixed culpability for the security flaws at Benghazi at “the assistant secretary level,” rather than with Clinton herself. Nobody in Washington understands the workings of the U.S. foreign service better than Pickering, who served in top positions under both presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Certainly not Johnson or Paul, who rather comically asserted that “if [he] were president,” he would have fired Clinton. Always hard to imagine, a Paul presidency seemed even more remote when he quizzed her about obscure right-wing conspiracy theories involving Syria, Turkey, and Libya.
As Joan Walsh observed in Salon, those irate and ignorant inquisitors on Capitol Hill appeared small and peevish in their confrontation with Clinton, a woman whose serious, diligent, tireless approach to public service has armed her with an enduring popularity at least three times greater than her Republican adversaries in Congress. Their feeble attempts to cut her down, echoed by the usual loudmouths on radio and cable television, only make her bigger.
If they persist, she probably will be president someday.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 24, 2013
Hillary Clinton’s impressive career should, on paper, be a sign of women’s advancement in public policy and in society as a whole. That was until her detractors accused her of a higher-level version of the feigned “I have a headache” dodge.
Clinton is recovering from a blood clot in her brain. It’s a scary development, but her doctors say she is making a good recovery. But the chronology of her illness has spurred an absurd series of conspiracy theories, largely centered on the insulting idea that she was lying about being sick so she could avoid testifying before Congress about the Benghazi attacks.
It started with a fall, which Clinton’s staff attributed to dehydration from the flu. The fall led to a concussion. Treatment and testing after the concussion revealed a blood clot in Clinton’s brain, a condition for which she is being given blood thinners. The snide and illogical accusations when Clinton fell—that she was faking so she didn’t have to go to the grown-up version of a high school trigonometry test—look even more ridiculous now. And they follow the same politically-driven theories about the State Department’s handling of the Benghazi episode itself.
Initial intelligence from the attacks was that the episode stemmed from outrage in the Middle East over an Internet video of a film—actually, a “film,”—that denigrated Muslims. Later, intelligence showed that it was a planned attack. Those two assessments are not necessarily mutually exclusive; it could have been a planned attack accelerated by spontaneous anger over the film. But detractors of the Obama administration, hoping to turn a tragedy into a scandal that would fell President Obama’s re-election campaign, made it into a conspiracy by the State Department to trick the American people. They did manage to end the potential nomination of United Nations ambassador Susan Rice to replace Clinton at State, saying Rice misled the American public. Yet Rice was merely doing what public officials do in cases like this—delivering the information the administration had received from the intelligence community (and it borders on delusional to think that the Benghazi episode would make the difference for Mitt Romney in the presidential campaign).
In fact, it’s not surprising that early intelligence from any tumultuous event would be wrong or incomplete. That’s the nature of early assessments. People report what they know at the time, and it’s not always a full picture. It doesn’t make it a lie.
The same is true for Clinton’s illness. First, it’s laughable that Clinton—who has faced relentless scrutiny as a public figure on everything from her health care proposals to her marriage to her hair—is scared of a bunch of congressmen. And those who now question whether we were all given the full story on Clinton’s illness when it first surfaced are guilty of the same conspiracy mindset as those who think the Obama administration deliberately lied in the early hours after the Benghazi attack.
Serious illnesses aren’t always identified at the first symptom, which may not look like the symptom of something dangerous at all. Fainting could mean you have low blood pressure or are dehydrated. Or, it could be something more—there’s simply no way to know until a patient is tested. The only question here is whether Clinton’s initial fall was caused by the blood clot or her flu, but that doesn’t suggest a misinformation campaign. The woman has traveled nearly a million miles in her four years as Secretary of State. If there’s a surprise here, it’s that she didn’t pass out a long time ago from sheer exhaustion.
The technology exists for instant communication, and that has given people the impression that facts will be clear at the same pace. Stories take longer to unfold than that—whether it’s an attack on a U.S. mission or an illness.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, January 2, 2013
To most Americans, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s sudden hospitalization is an occasion for compassion, concern, and urgent wishes for her full recovery. But for her perennially obsessed adversaries on the far right, the former First Lady’s illness is a moment of deep embarrassment – or ought to be.
Until Sunday, when Clinton entered New York Presbyterian Hospital for treatment of a blood clot caused by a concussion she suffered a few weeks ago, her most irresponsible critics were suggesting that she might be faking the injury. The supposed reason for such a diplomatic illness, according to John Bolton, the Fox News personality and former UN Ambassador, was so that Clinton could avoid testifying on Capitol Hill about the Benghazi terrorist attack that left three State Department personnel dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Now that Clinton has been admitted to one of the nation’s premier hospitals for treatment with anti-coagulant medication, it is worth reviewing the false suspicions that Bolton, other Fox News personalities, the New York Post, and assorted reactionary bloggers tried to arouse about her. The anti-Clinton mania of the 90s – which infected mainstream media as well as right-wing propagandists – remains latent but highly contagious among certain Republicans. And it remains just as reliant upon misinformation and deception now as it did back then.
On December 17 – two days after Clinton’s doctors issued an official medical report through the State Department about her continued suffering from a stomach virus that had left her extremely dehydrated and caused her to faint – Bolton mocked her for feigning a “diplomatic illness.” She did not wish to testify about security at the Benghazi consulate, the subject of a critical State Department review that she had commissioned, and therefore had contracted “a diplomatic illness to beat the band,” said Bolton sardonically.
Bolton was not alone in uttering these unfounded claims. They were echoed on The Five, a Fox News chat show featuring four dim commentators and Bob Beckel. Monica Crowley, another regular Fox clown, likewise suggested that Clinton’s virus had “impeccable timing.”
Ten days later, Bolton again insinuated in an op-ed article for the New York Post – also owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp – that Clinton was attempting to avoid testifying about Benghazi. While accusing her of using “a series of excuses” to evade testimony, Bolton’s article didn’t specify the “diplomatic illness” charge again, prompting Washington Post press critic Erik Wemple to ask whether he was withdrawing that canard. In an email to Wemple, Bolton made feeble jokes but neither repeated nor withdrew the accusation. Meanwhile, wingnut bloggers claimed that Clinton was carousing at a resort in the Dominican Republic — just as she was being sent to the hospital in New York by her physicians.
With Clinton in the hospital, it should now be obvious even to the most addled hater that the repeated statements from the State Department about her medical condition have been accurate, that she is innocent of any deception, that she fully intended to testify in January as promised, and that she indeed took full responsibility for the Benghazi tragedy, even though she deserved no blame. It should also be obvious that she deserves an apology from Bolton, a figure who has brought ridicule and shame on the US government more than once in the guise of public service.
The first reactions from the Republican right were not promising, alas, as alarming symptoms of the same old sickness showed up instantaneously on Twitter. Nor was it reassuring that the Los Angeles Times gave credence to the charges in an online poll inquiring, “Did she fake it?”
“If anyone has mastered the victimhood complex it is Hillary Rodham Clinton,” cheeped a GOP activist from New York. “She plays it brilliantly. Has for 20 yrs.”
You see, it doesn’t matter whether Hillary is actually the victim of speculation, slur, and slander. It never has and – for those moral troglodytes – it never will.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, December 30, 2012