November 15, 2007
A tacky solution to a constitutional inconvenience
While I don't know whether she'll sparkle in tonight's debate, I have to say that watching this video of Hillary slugging it out in Iowa was no fun.
The blogger who linked it titled the post The Hillary Scream. Not to disagree in a major way, but I'm afraid that it's more along the lines of crassly mundane political plodding than it is a true Howard Dean-style scream. The speech is the sort of thing I'd expect to hear as an exhortation from a Chicago ward-heeler in a get-out-the-vote drive. And about as inspiring. Frankly, I find it dull and grating. It is to screaming as a dull ache is to real pain.
But, much as I'm already tired of Hillary's speechifying, being tired of hearing her is the least of my objections to her.
What I find more crass than the unpleasant tonality of her voice is the sheer tawdriness of what she represents.
It's the wife-really-running-for-the-husband, wink-wink stuff.
In a word, it is tacky.
And it's unbecoming the United States.
Longtime anti-Clinton columnist Charles Krauthammer discussed the phenomenon recently. Needless to say, if this old hand at Clinton-bashing didn't like Bill as president, you can imagine what he thinks of what he calls the "Hill-Bill Problem":
...Hillary's problem goes beyond discomfort with dynastic succession. It's deep unease about a shared presidency. Forget about Bill, the bad boy. The problem is William Jefferson Clinton, former president of the United States, commander in chief of the Armed Forces, George Washington's representative on earth.Cute. It's like sorta almost kind of like we really don't need the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.
Hey, you don't have to like my wife's speech-making, her flip-flopping, or her voice tone as long as you remember that the country's in good hands!
OK. While I wouldn't vote for him again, I'm enough of a realist that I can handle the fact that a majority of Americans would like to put Bill Clinton back in the White House. Had he been allowed to run against Bush in 2000, he'd have won. No argument there.
But must we suffer through the wink-wink charade?
Apparently. Reading Charles Krauthammer piece was painful for me, only because I agree with him and hate being reminded that if you thought Bill was tacky, you ain't seen nothin' yet:
Any ex-president is a presence in his own right. His stature, unlike, say, Hillary's during Bill's presidency, is independent of his spouse. From day one of Hillary's inauguration, Bill will have had more experience than her at everything she touches. His influence on her presidency would necessarily be immeasurably greater than that of any father on any son.That, I'm afraid, is wishful thinking. If Hillary is elected, Bill will be back.
That is not a bug, folks, it's a feature. It's the whole idea.
Krauthammer mentions two famous men's famous wives, Isabelita Peron and Cristina Kirchner. Perhaps his goal was to remind his readers that this is the sort of thing that should only go on in other countries, but I wish he'd mentioned Lurleen.
That's Lurleen Wallace, who ran as a wink-wink stand-in for Governor George Wallace when the Alabama Constitution forbid him a third term. People thought it was a cheap, tawdry, and tacky thing. Up here in the North, people laughed. (Probably because most of them thought it was a dumb, white-trashy thing to do.)
Well, I'm sorry, but the idea of a wife of a president who could never become president on her own becoming president as an end-run around the Constitution is cheap, tawdry, and above all tacky.
From a feminist perspective, it is insulting and degrading for women. But the feminists don't especially care how they smash the Last Glass Ceiling.
In terms of pure tackiness, it's amost on the level of Jim McGreevey, heterosexual until a corruption scandal caught up with him, and then "the nation's first gay governor." Although I'll say this for McGreevey: at least he ran on his own. I doubt he could ever have been elected had he run as a gay man, but OTOH I doubt very many people voted for him because he had a wife and kids. The usual non-controversial "straight" assumptions were made, and he never had to say, "I'm running because I want to become your heterosexual governor!" (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I just don't remember that.)
My point is that it was tacky for gay activists to claim McGreevey, and it is almost as tacky for feminists to claim Hillary. I stress "almost" because she did run for and serve as a United States senator. But even that involved a huge effort by her husband and the Clinton machine, and considering what's happening right now, it's laughably unreasonable to deny that the goal all along has been for the Clintons to retake the White House.
Thus, I don't see Hillary as the feminist identity politics issue some would like her to be. There is no issue in the minds of reasonable people over whether a woman should be president. Not only do I have no problem with that, but I'd vote for Condi Rice in a heartbeat, because she's earned it.
OK, I'm sure there are conservatives out there who'd refuse to vote for Condi for various political reasons. (After all, according to some "conservatives," she's a war-supporting One World Trilateral Bilderberger who's destroying America's sovereignty and wants to replace the dollar with the "Amero.") But how many right-wingers would really oppose her for being a woman? I submit that the number would be minuscule, and you can be damned sure they wouldn't vote for the Democrats.
The point is, there are many fully qualified women in both parties who qualify on their own merits, and not on their husband's merits. (Just as the GOP has Condi Rice, the Democrats have Dianne Feinstein, Madeleine Albright, and others. Even Nancy Pelosi at least is known as Nancy Pelosi and not the wife of whoever the hell she married.)
Tacky though it was, the cheap end-run around the Alabama Constitution that George and Lurleen Wallace pulled off in the 1960s simply does not compare in scope to this monumental national charade.
It's no understatement to call this a sleazy and dishonest trick. By two sleazy and dishonest people. America is not a corrupt Jim Crow state. Nor is it supposed to be a third world country where people fall for sleazy and dishonest tricks by sleazy and dishonest people.
Why can't the Democrats get a real woman who can run on her own? Whose electability doesn't depend on the fact that her husband is a popular former president who's barred from running again?
I'm wondering whether the 22nd Amendment was a mistake.
So did Dwight Eisenhower:
"The United States ought to be able to choose for its President anybody it wants, regardless of the number of terms he has served."I realize that many powerful arguments can be (and obviously were) made in support of presidential term limits, but in the absence of a civic-minded and virtuous electorate, rules like the 22nd Amendment invite mischief.
All who don't want Hillary Clinton to be president have the 22nd Amendment to thank. But for that amendment, her campaign would not exist.
But is it really fair of me to blame an amendment to the Constitution? I mean, this was all debated to death and agreed to in the 1940s, and when the amendment was passed, it became as much a part of the Constitution as the right to free speech. So perhaps rather than blame the Constitution, I should blame those who are so eager to cheapen it. To call what they're doing "tacky" might even be an understatement.
If enough Americans want Bill, wouldn't it be more honest and more dignified to allow them to actually vote for Bill?
I say get rid of the 22nd Amendment and let Bill run.
You want sleaze and dishonesty, vote for the real thing!
Isn't that better than cheapening the Constitution?
Let me admit my bias here. I voted for him the first time around, but I wouldn't do it again. I think Bill and his wife brought tackiness to the White House, and the conservative attack-Clinton hate machine that emerged was something I had never seen before in American politics.
I naively hoped I'd never see it again. But that was before payback came in the form of BDS.
Does it really have to be payback time again? Is there any way to turn off the cycles of Bush-Clinton hate machines?
(I guess that's another topic. The winking at the mocking of the inconvenient 22nd Amendment by two tacky people is a tacky enough mouthful for one post.)
posted by Eric on 11.15.07 at 09:23 AM
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