I hear the constant refrain from the Clinton and Obama campaigns that John McCain can't be allowed to win, because that will be just 4 more years of the Bush Administration. It's not an implausible argument, given that McCain has started to repudiate some of his past views on taxes, for example.
However . . . this is focusing purely on political issues. Now, I'm not downplaying the importance of issues, since for many people, such things as Supreme Court appointments, tax policy, Iraq, and so on are key points. But I can't escape feeling that on a procedural level, the candidate who would represent 4 more years of the Bush Administration is . . . Hillary Clinton.
How can I say that? Let me explain.
Obviously, I don't mean that Clinton, if President, would duplicate Bush's policies. Rather, what I mean is that she strikes me as most likely to replicate the Bush Administration's approach to dealing with the opposition and the public: a malleable understanding of truth and reality; and questionable judgment about and excessive devotion to blindly loyal subordinates.
Malleable understanding of truth and reality
As far as I can tell, nothing ever matters except what the Clinton campaign says at this very moment; certainly, not anything that was said in the past by any member of the Clinton campaign. The best example of this is the "3 am ad" that Clinton ran against Obama in the days leading up to the primaries in Texas and Ohio. The ad asked voters to consider whether the person in White House would be up to answering the phone at 3 am to deal with a national security crisis.
The suggestion here is that Obama is not ready, and the country would suffer if he were the President. Yet, in 2004, Bill Clinton, when campaigning on behalf of John Kerry, told a crowd that if one candidate was selling fear (i.e., Bush) and one was selling hope (i.e., Kerry), you better vote for the one selling hope(!).
Is this at all consistent? Of course not, because all that matters is the present, and in the present, Clinton needed to sell fear.
There are so many other examples of this kind of malleable, "reality is what we say it is" attitude, including:
She admits here that she said some things she knew not to be true. Why? If she's willing to lie about something this trivial, what else would she lie about that matters to her? What is especially galling about the Bosnia sniper lie is that it was so brazen -- as if to say that the public is a bunch of dupes who wouldn't possibly find out the truth.
Another example of Clinton's reality: Florida and Michigan. As we know all too well, the DNC voted to strip Florida and Michigan of its delegates as punishment for those states' decisions to violate party rules "by moving up their contest dates before Feb. 5." Clinton pledged with the other candidates not to campaign in those states. Yet, after she "won" those states, she started calling for the results to be counted and the delegates to be included.
What rational person would conclude that the results would be meaningful? (To be fair, she later called for some sort of re-vote, and it may be that the Obama campaign obstructed any effort to come up with an acceptable re-vote, but that is a different issue.) This is especially true in Michigan, where Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot!
Questionable judgment about and excessive devotion to blindly loyal subordinates
One of the key complaints that I've heard about the Bush Administration is that it made mistakes in appointing people like former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and of course, Vice President Dick Cheney. It compounded those mistakes by not listening to "good" appointments, like former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the generals who advised the President not to invade Iraq, at least not without committing 500,000 troops.
Let's look at what we know of Clinton. I've already blogged before about Clinton and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, so I won't repeat what I said except to say that I think so little of the association that it was a major motivating factor in leading me to change my support initially from Clinton to Obama.
Then there's her former campaign director, Mark Penn, who was able to keep his day job as the CEO of his lobbying firm, Burston-Marsteller. Of course, he was fired when it became known that, while Clinton was opposing a free trade deal with Colombia, Penn was representing Colombia in that same deal. Why didn't Clinton think that it was a problem to have Penn continuing to work as a lobbyist while running her campaign? Heck, even Dick Cheney resigned as the CEO of Halliburton!
Is this an example of what her "35 years of experience" has led her to conclude is an acceptable arrangement without a conflict of interest?!?
Of course, she didn't even fire Penn -- he remains on her campaign as an advisor!
Speaking of questionable judgment about subordinates, I have to end with this observation. We have a mess in Iraq in part because Bush did not listen to the generals who warned him about invading. Lesson: military commanders might know what they are talking about.
Hillary Clinton declared Thursday she will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq within 60 days of becoming president, regardless of what her military advisers say about the situation on the ground at the time.
True, invading and withdrawing are different. But the bald-faced willingness to dismiss what military commanders have to say evinces a similar attitude of disrespect toward the professionals and a ruthless desire to advance one's own agenda regardless of the facts.
Again, I realize that political policies matter to people, and there would obviously be differences between Hillary Clinton and John McCain on a range of issues. But that is focusing on what the President does, and ignoring how the President will do it. Both are important, and when it comes to replicating how the Bush Administration is perceived to do things, I see the danger as coming from Hillary Clinton more than John McCain.