Hillary is extremely similar to two well-known historical presidential candidates: Hoover and Bush Sr. The similarities are eerie. All three have résumés that made Beltway insiders and no-mind pundits assume, and tout, that the candidate was among the best-qualified and best-prepared candidates in the country’s history. All three have some degree of personal magnetism that has enabled them each to generate incredibly devoted and quite large coteries of personal friends who are nearly maniacal about helping the candidate get to the White House. All of these core groups of friends are also defensive and thin-skinned to the point of paranoia.
And very relatedly, the candidates are all similar in terms of decades within the bubble in terms of personal finance. They all also have a distasteful fascination with personal wealth, though Hillary’s graspingness is orders of magnitude more unattractive. They also all three suffer from a truly surprising level of utter failure to appreciate the challenges and opportunities of the moment the country is in as they approach the White House.
Hillary will for instance do everything she can to get a Geithner or a Summers in as Treasury secretary, and will also launch whatever land war she has the first opportunity to. Both her domestic and foreign policy inclinations will result in historic disasters, and my fear is that based on Hillary’s personal lack of skill, the Democratic party will be tarred with failures at home and abroad that are really creations of the pivotal George W. Bush Administration.
Like Hoover and George Herbert Walker Bush, Hillary has “one-termer” written all over her.
Can I fault Bernie for not praising Obama? No. He has been the best president since LBJ, but that is not a high bar. Every one of his considerable accomplishments has been half-a-loaf. Could he have gotten a decent health care plan through? No. Could he have gotten an effectively sized stimulus package through? No. But in both of these and in many other cases that could be named, he has resolutely failed to acknowledge the partial nature of his victories.
Obama thus has substantially set back the forward progress of the country. And he set the stage for Bernie’s rise. If only he had forthrightly acknowedged that the Affordable Care Act was nothing more than a weak start, which is the truth. The ACA with its savagely unequal reliance on catastrophic-only coverage — called High Deductible Health Plans — is nothing but a tourniquet, and Obama’s failure to call this spade a spade is the main factor that allows Hillary to claim that the health insurance issue is basically taken care of, and Obamacare just needs a tweak or two.
Is it better than before? Yes, much. But most middle income families who buy a Bronze Plan could easily still be bankrupted. Problem not solved.
And, if we stipulate that everything that made Obama a relatively good president occurred in the first two years of Democratic control of Congress, and that nothing of note significant has occurred certainly in the past four years, we are left with the cold reality that Hillary will not be able to get things done any more than Obama. She has no more sway in Congress than he does, less talent, and certainly less (I would even say no) natural progressive instincts. Congress blocked Obama’s incrementalism, and it will block hers just the same way.
So the trade between her and Bernie in terms of policy comes down to this: neither can get any domestic initiatives passed, and she will start another war abroad.
She in addition will be diminished at least, and based on the strong mistrust she inspires, quite possibly she could lose to Trump. She has myriad personal weaknesses and foibles of the type he is so expert at exploiting. Whereas Bernie would be very hard for Trump to diminish. He is personally boring but blameless, and more to the point, he just doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about him, rendering him impervious to the type of horrible and very effective personal attacks that are Trump’s stock in trade.
To me, it’s not a fun choice, but it is a very easy one.
One final parting shot at Obama: he has many of the elements of greatness, but his original sin of overwhelming self-confidence has created in him a Great Man sense of history, with himself of course in that central role, with potentially disastrous consequences for his party.
He has been the worst and most neglectful leader of a political party perhaps ever in U.S. history. His decision to sideline Howard Dean and Dean’s fifty-state strategy to rebuild a progressive, nationwide Democratic party, and the related politically inept decision to tell Obama’s own armies of supporters to go home and let the Rhodes Scholars and other grown-ups from Money Land, like Rahm Emmanuel, take over the adult work of governing, instead of encouraging them to stay active and engaged as policy partners to the Administration in pressuring Congress during that crucial first two years — those decisions have created the current perilous and extremely weak postion in which the Dems find themselves.
We have what, 18 governorships and what, seven statehouses blue on both sides of the aisle? Where has the president been on literally, any measure of party building? Obama’s obscenely selfish focus for the past 7+ years on his own political future and his own political needs have left his party in as weak a posture as any in memory coming out of a two-term presidency. Where is the contingency planning, and where is the redundancy?
Literally all we have in politics right now is the presidency. If we lose that in 2016, we inherently lose both houses of Congress, we lose any chance we had of turning the Supreme Court, and we have no state political backstops. If the next president is a Republican, that person will have a Stalin-like level of power for at least 24 months, maybe more. That’s on Obama for his long dereliction of duty as the Democratic leader.
And rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that in terms of legislative activity, he has had almost nothing of significance to spend time on since Pelosi surrendered the gavel in 2011. Especially after he secured his own reelection in 2012, Obama has no excuse for his totally MIA status in terms of party building. Typical of Obama, we pay the price while he rides off into the sunset.
President Barack Hussein Half-a-Loaf. Better than no loaf. But I don’t fault Bernie for not hyping Obama’s record. He made some good starts in several areas. Better than nothing, and in some cases it was impressive to get even these small bits of progress. And yes, way better than President Clinton ever did. And, to somewhat repeat, if only Obama had the decency to be appropriately humble and apologetic about the incomplete, preliminary and in the case of the ACA, the for legitimate political reasons necessarily misshapen nature of these changelets, then maybe Hillary wouldn’t have the space to implicitly or sometimes explicitly claim that these problems were fixed, so the nation can move on to more important business like new trade deals.
Bernie is an imperfect tribune at best. But at least with him we don’t have to worry about backsliding, triangulation, and disguised attempts to pass parts of the Moneyland agenda. And the war. Don’t forget the war.
Not a nice election.