Monday, February 25, 2008

The Americas: Hillary Clinton’s Valedictory; John McCain’s Uncharacteristic Silence

Valedictory: Word of the Weekend

It looked like every other media report and commentary had the same take on Hillary Clinton’s final words at the Thursday primary debate face-off. Namely, that it was:

1) her finest moment in the campaign; and

2) “valedictory”.

It also turned out to be a typical Clinton moment, since Mrs. Clinton:

1) had more or less borrowed her best lines from Bill Clinton and John Edwards; and

2) almost immediately switched to attack mode, here.

Now “desperate and whiny” is going a little too far, and there may have been more context to the clip, but it does have a rambling, unscripted grimness that Mrs. Clinton’s formidable intellect and self-control rarely, if ever, allows to emerge in public. Maybe she was just tired and cranky. Or it’s one of those inevitable hitches in breaking in a new campaign style, the John-Edwards-2.0, Angry-Populist model. Which reminds me once again, Mrs. Clinton is an excellent study. But she’s a grind. She’s reactive, and unimaginative. Other things being equal, genius trumps grind. And she’s losing to a genius.

Honesty in Public Life: John McCain’s Case

Read this. I was struck by Mr. McCain’s behavior too.

Circumstances often force us to be less than truthful. (Which brings me to my favorite fantasy about truth in advertising, namely: What if all advertisements had to be literally true? I mean, does Tiger Woods really drive that dinky van? Does Donovan McNabb’s mom really feed him Chunky Chicken to him and his Eagles teammates? What if they had to? And could you sue for damages because those pills didn’t actually let you whack that golf ball 274.33 meters? But I digress.) And lying, if only by the more acceptable means of exaggeration or changing your mind without a change of heart, is endemic in politics. But one of the many reasons that people are attracted to McCain is that he has difficulty in doing this (while Mitt Romney repels so many people because of the ease with which he changes his position on so many issues which are for many people matters of deep personal, ethical and (in the US) religious conviction). Mr. McCain is not quite the straight talker that he claims to be, but he is palpably uncomfortable when he knowingly compromises himself. To put it bluntly, he’s a lousy liar. Now the sexual insinuations that the NYT article wrapped around Mr.. McCain’s well-chronicled relationships with lobbyists have a tabloidy feel, for which the NYT has been appropriately criticized. But continuing in that sleazy vein, it’s hard not to notice that the lobbyist in question looks remarkably like a younger version of Mr. McCain’s current wife.

Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have good reasons not to go there. But journalists will have no such compunctions in questioning the candidate, and Mr. McCain’s vicious temper is well known. So I expect to see more of this as the campaign progresses, if only as a cattle prod. After all, the underlying story about the relationship between Mr. McCain and lobbyists is very real.

No comments: