Pete's Blog

Clinton/Obama

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This blog is primarily about music, naturally enough. But I've written about movies and about my family and about our culture and society. This week I'm going to do something I haven't done before and may never do again. I want to write about politics. More and more Democrats seem to want their presidential nominee to be Senator Obama. This feels like a mistake to me. Even leaving aside the unfair and unequal standard by which Senator Clinton is often judged - nobody criticizes Obama for his fat ankles - there is an unhealthy element of personality at work here. People just like Obama more than Clinton. They respond to him personally. They find her cold and ambitious and respond to his appeal for a different kind of politics. There is essentially no difference between the two candidates on the issues, but Obama is able to turn this to his advantage by calling himself the candidate of "change." However nebulous and undefined this change may be, his strategy forces Clinton to be the candidate of the status quo. This is empty symbolism. It may be great television but it's bad politics. And the party will pay for it in November, because if the Democrats can't win the White House in 2008, after all the advantages handed them by the Bush administration, they will no longer deserve to be a viable force in American politics. I am less concerned with the future viability of the Democratic Party than with the growing acceptance of the idea that the first qualification of any president is his or her personality. You would think that after eight years of George W. Bush people would now value competence over geniality. But because the people who voted for Bush are not "our" kind of people many of us feel we don't have anything to gain from paying attention to them. It's worth noting that the people who voted for Bush did so because they liked him and they wanted someone like themselves (in this case, an evangelical Christian) to have that place on the world stage. And those people got screwed far worse than any of the smug liberals you see with "Impeach Bush" stickers on the bumpers of their Volvos. The Bush voters are the ones whose children are being killed in Iraq. They voted for an appealing personality and they got a dangerous incompetent. The most widely reviled politician of my lifetime was without a doubt Richard Nixon. But I would love to see Richard Nixon in the White House for the next eight years. Why? Because Richard Nixon was not cool. He did not look good on television. He did not have an ideology or a demographic to hide behind. All he offered (as even his loudest detractors admit) was competence and hard work. That's what we need, a competent, hard-working chief executive, not a poster boy.

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