Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Can Hillary save the Democrat Party?

In an interview with CBS for 60 Minutes recently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to initiate the political distancing process, perhaps laying a foundation for a presidential bid of her own in 2012.

excerpt from ‘Interview With Scott Pelley of CBS 60 Minutes’, on the State Department website
NARRATOR: Right away she found that America is in a crisis of credibility.
SECRETARY CLINTON: You’ve got countries who are explicitly saying to me in private, “Well, look, we always looked to you because you had this great economy and now look, you’re in the ditch. And you’ve dragged other people into the ditch.”
QUESTION: Larry Summers, the President’s economic advisor asked this question, “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s greatest power?” Is America in decline?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, we’re not. But it’s a question that has to be answered and I happen to believe it’s one of the critical challenges before us. Our nation has to be strong fiscally at home in order for us to be strong abroad.

Whether you believe this signals a potential challenge or not, it’s an interestiing ‘what if?’. The difference between the Cintons’ (both of them) approach to politics and governing and the Obama approach is that the Clintons are politicians and Obama is an idealogue.

Idealogues are not necessarily bad. The fact that President Reagan would not budge on a number of issues due to adherence to a few rigid fundamental principals, turned out to be a very good thing for this country and for the world. However, it’s only a positive if you’re on the right track.

Obama has a vision for a new America. He has a specific agenda in mind and making it happen is priority number one. Clinton just wants to drive. If the Obama model doesn’t work, she’d have no problem piloting another one. It’s not a sinister thing. Some people are engineers and some are drivers.

The value, to a political party, of a non-idealogue driver is that he or she keeps the infrastructure that is the party, viable until a suitable idealogue attaches him or herself to your brand. The mandate of this type of governing is simply; do no harm. Gerald Ford is a good example.

President Clinton kept his party viable while the idealoges in Congress of the same party were cutting their own political throats. Clinton eventually went along with the Republican agenda, while strict adherence to the party line sent many Congressional Democrats packing. Clinton not only won reelection, but left office still popular, even after an impeachment.
Americans can forgive having a bad idea. They wont forgive insistence on pursuing a course that’s obviously not working. Most Americans are not idealogues. If you make their situation better, you can call yourself whatever you want. They’re not nearly as interested in your beliefs as in your performance.

If Hillary does decide to mount a challenge, she would do well to focus more on thought process and less on selling specific agenda items or visions of a new society.

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