Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why I Sort of Hate the Clintons
Here's a fun game: go to Google (that's a beer you owe me, Greg), and type in Hillary Clinton "strength and experience". Or, what the hell, just click here.

You'll find that almost every time one of the Clintonistas speaks, especially if it's about Barack Obama (the latest example of which finally set me off on this rant--but more about the O-man anon), this same phrase is employed: "Senator Clinton has the strength and experience to..." The end of the sentence really doesn't matter: ensure a bumper corn crop? Fly through the air? Reverse the earth's orbit in its course?

This is what political pundits are talking about when they prattle on about "message discipline." It's another manifestation of the single worst phenomenon of 21st century American politics: those awful fucking backdrops that have the same three- or four- word phrase written over and over and over again. "Securing Our Borders." "Fixing Health Care." "Defending the Homeland." Gerund, object; now and forever; world without end.

It does help in winning news cycles, thanks in part to the ever-declining budgets of the big news operations and the short attention spans of journalists and the public alike. But it dumbs down our politics, and I suspect it contributes to the elevation of bad leaders. Bush was, for the most part, fantastic at message discipline; presumably it helped that he was too slow-witted to improvise and extrapolate, but he also probably applied the (very real) skill sets that helped him to stop drinking and stay in very good shape for a guy in his 60s.

Bill Clinton, famously undisciplined in his personal life and not known for running a very tight political ship through most of his career, got very good at message discipline in his 1996 re-election campaign. It's probably not a coincidence that Sen. Clinton's operation has the same look and feel (probably meaningless Freudian slip: I initially typed "look and fear") as that campaign. This is one of the many reasons I think she's going to win the nomination, and I admit it will serve her well against the eminently rattle-able Rudy Giuliani, if he makes it to the general election. But, as George W. Bush proved, the ability to stay on-message has little to no connection to the talents a successful president needs.

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