Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Secret

Last evening, my wife and I were watching a fairly violent movie that included a particularly gruesome sequence where a young woman was shorn of her hair and confined in a dank prison cell. Being especially squeamish as of late, my wife took in most of it with her hand over her eyes, repeatedly asking, "Is it over yet?" At one point I quipped, "Here's the waterboarding scene."

With an earnestness only to be summoned by a woman round with child, my wife said to me, "What is waterboarding?" I do not begrudge my wife her blissful ignorance of media hot buttons, as I have taken up that cross, and her interests and gifts lie elsewhere. (She is a natural fundraiser for charitable organizations, her having grown up in the ultimate not-for-profit environment as a Lutheran pastor's daughter.)

If the goings-on last week at the Parkway Ballroom in Chicago were a scene out of a movie, it might have been called "Clinton Comes To Bronzeville." As reported in the Chicago Sun-Times (and scarcely anyplace else in the media cosmos), Bill Clinton came to the African American neighborhood of Bronzeville for a "People's Rally" for his wife. And while 400 Hillary Clinton supporters were in attendance, no media were allowed inside - or in front of the Parkway for that matter - as police officers kept reporters across the street from the event. It is assumed that the secrecy was intended to shield Sen. Clinton's black supporters from any criticism for not supporting the black candidate (and ostensible hometown favorite), Barack Obama.

Earlier in the week, it came to our attention that the Clinton campaign was accused of planting questions at campaign events (a charge that her staff eventually admitted to.) After a November 6, 2007 campaign stop at a biodiesel plant in the Iowa town of Newton, a Grinnell College student indicated that she was approached by a Clinton staffer to ask Clinton a question. According to a Grinnell College website, Scarlet and Black,
Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff confirmed that she was prompted to ask Sen. Clinton about her plans to combat global warming, saying "[o]ne of the senior staffers told me what [to ask]."

It would be understatement to suggest that Ms. Clinton has turned furtiveness into an art form. The
root cause of her attempts to deny, distort and obfuscate appears to be a perception that her candidacy has innate and immutable vulnerabilities. As much has been revealed by recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling which indicates that a plurality of Americans - 43 percent - view Hillary negatively as it pertains to honesty, with another 23 percent unsure. And as noted in the Wall Street Journal, although 50 percent of Americans polled would prefer a Democrat president, the margin of victory for Democrats shrinks to 46 percent to 45 percent when Clinton is matched up against Republican front runner Rudy Giuliani.

My sense is that the motivation for the Clinton campaign's secrecy is not the fact that she is singularly the most thinly qualified candidate ever to make a serious run at national office in modern times, although she most certainly is. All of her much-vaunted "experience" is as a passenger on history's train; as it stands now she is most qualified to be "Bystander-in-Chief." Considering the lengthy records of service of her Senate colleagues Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, along with that of Gov. Bill Richardson, she is certainly the least qualified of the Democratic field.

Even taking into account Obama's brief tenure as a Senator, the difference in relevant experience between Barack and Hillary is all to the right of a decimal point. (Which is to say that Obama has no expertise in the areas of sacking White House travel office staff, turning $1,000 in cattle futures into a $100,000 gain, enabling adultery and obstructing justice, or twice serving as architect of a Rube Goldberg-style universal health care plan.)

To be sure, spouses can have differing (and hopefully complimentary) skill sets and interests. But being married to an English teacher would not necessarily mean that one is ready to improve on the works of Shakespeare. If being the spouse of a middling president is to be counted as "experience," then being the spouse of an air traffic controller, a thoracic surgeon, a nuclear engineer or an obscure blogger should be a qualification for those professions as well.

But there is indeed a skeleton in the closet of Clinton, Inc. that necessitates her studied opacity. Beyond a lack of experience, the dark secret kept in the Stygian nadirs of the Clinton campaign coheres around her policy prescriptions. As Peggy Noonan noted recently, "her policy approach reveal[s] all the impulses not of the New Centrism but the Old Leftism."

The problem for Mrs. Clinton is not that people sense she will raise taxes. It's that they don't think she'll raise them on the real and truly rich. The rich are her friends. They contribute to her, dine with her, have access to her. They have an army of accountants. They're protected even from her.

But she can stick it to others, and in the way of modern liberalism for roughly half a century now one suspects she'll define affluence down. That she would hike taxes on people who make $150,000 a year.

But those "rich"--people who make $200,000 and have two kids and a mortgage and pay local and state taxes in, say, New Jersey--they don't see themselves as rich. Because they're not. They're already carrying too much of the freight.

At the risk of sounding trite, if this woman's surname was anything other than Clinton, she would be an asterisk in the polls. Based upon longstanding and legitimate concerns about her experience and integrity, it is inexplicable that she even considered launching a campaign. The very idea that Ms. Clinton is being taken seriously as a presidential contender can only be explained by some sort of mass hypnosis. But this does not surprise, as such a derangement from objective reality is the foundation stone of modern liberalism.

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