Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sad Goodbyes

Hillary didn't do herself any favors last night. I watched for as long as I could bear it, and felt that I was watching hurt and exhaustion meet desperation in the nation's first viable female presidential candidate. I felt sad, disgusted, and weary, and wanted it to end.

How to account for this outcome? Old-style politics, 20 years of media spite and malice, an unfortunate manner and look, decisions about leadership, and a couple of disastrous public policy decisions.

In all respects but the second, this is the name of the game. She paid her money and took her choice, and it didn't work. If she had differentiated herself from her husband's centrist-to-right politics, it's possible that she could have inflamed the base in a good way despite the other circumstances, but she tacked to the Right during her time in the Senate, and we noticed.

The Iraq vote, the Iran vote, and the care NOT to lead on issues of critical, vital importance to us--on domestic intelligence, judicial appointments, the Occupation, alternative energy, women's and gay rights, and education, to name a few balls dropped by this and the last bunch of congressional Democrats--will cost her her place at the head of the Party, and she earned the loss.

Why not apply the same standard to Obama? I do. But Obama has a shorter track-record on centrist-to-Right votes. His position on the Occupation distinguishes him as someone capable of applying sense even in the midst of a jingoistic, xenophobic hoorah hoopla. This offsets, to some extent, the perception his moderation creates with the Left side of the base.

Obama's manner and look work to his advantage, not to his disadvantage. He is bringing a desperately needed tone of rationality and civility to the public discourse. In the process, the Right is being shown up for what it is. This is something that Dean didn't accomplish and Clinton couldn't, both of them because their caustic attacks (however gratifying) didn't create the foil necessary to expose the Right's nastiness. Obama shrewedly read the mood of the nation and judged the correct tactic for dealing with the likes of Ann Coulter. Let us pray that his strategy will prevail through the general brawl coming up.

What he hasn't had to confront, and this makes the competition a lot less than even, is 20 years of incessant, non-stop media harrassment. I sincerely doubt that most men and any woman could prevail given that huge and relentless chorus of vilification. It never stopped. No matter what she says or does or wears, no matter where she goes or who she speaks with, it doesn't stop. And the smug satisfaction being communicated in various ways by Blitzer, Crowley, Matthews, and the rest, is really too much.

This must hurt, and I can't blame Hillary for being eroded and beaten down and wearied to the point that one nice word from a stranger in the crowd could bring tears to her eyes. There are times when all of us have experienced ostracism of the kind that seems to permeate every port in the storm; we can relate. But I don't know how many of us have experienced this kind of relentless mockery, scrutiny, disparagement, and distortion for 20 years. I feel sorry for her, and angry at the country that couldn't or wouldn't do better by her.

Now I want her to get off the horse, take a long, hot bath, and sleep for a couple of months. When she wakes up, I hope it will be to a kinder world.