Friday, February 1, 2008
Personal Aside: The Hillary-Obama Debate: Obama on Style, Hillary on Policyand Her Big Gaffe.
To those with little sense of history, the key point in the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama debate on CNN last night was that they seemed to get along. Thats purely incidental and was as planned between the two of them as the varied presentations they made: Hillary as the experienced one and policy wonk and Barack as the idealist and progenitor of youth who at last believe they have found their spokesman.
Thats how the media pundits played it. But this debate the first between just the two of them (and thankfully callow John Edwards whose view of the competitive economy approximates that of Hugo Chavez as the one of my favorite columnists, Charles Krauthammer has said) underscored the real difference. It is the difference between a real policy wonk and a visionary, between one who knows the mechanics, nuts and bolts and struggles to portray the lift of a driving dream and grace, the immaculata of a tanned Jimmy Stewart with just the touch of lilting language flownot overdoneof a psalmist. Put it this way for one of my age: it is as if John Kennedy were to meet Hubert Humphrey.
Hubert was the policy wonk; Kennedy the broad-brush visionary. They did, you know, in 1960 and Kennedy, pencil thin, his hand resting easily in his jacket pocket, the other jabbing pointedly at the future, toppled Hubert who was his old self reciting statistics and making political allusions in machine-gun fashion. It was the victory of style over substancealmost always going to the benefit of style. Such as Ronald Reagan contrasted with John B. Anderson, filled to the gills with statistics and legal arguments Reagan versus Jimmy Carter who was swimming in policy allusions and the fact that his little daughter, Amy, told him she was worriedvery worriedabout nuclear proliferation which a 10 year old might just have difficulty pronouncing. In that same confrontation, Reagan mentioned as an aside that Carter had written that he takes a cold shower every morning on arising. There was silence in the audience. And then Reagan said: A man who will say this will fib about anything. The audience exploded. Can anyone believe one who claimed to step into an icy shower every morning?. Well, maybe since the one who claimed it was Carter who was sort of strange anyhow, it was reasonablebut Reagan got away with the jest.
As stylistically pleasing as he is, I dont believe Barack trounced Hillary last night. At least thats my opinion. If we were to pick a president between just those two I would unreservedly vote for Hillary. No, not because she is from Park Ridgebut because I think shes much tougher. Obama comes across as a dreamy poet.
All the same, she made a terrible gaffe last night that was not picked up by the audience, the CNN commentators or Obamaor anyone else I know. It was a gaffe that were she to have said it in a debate with a Republican, she would have rammed down her throat. Do you know what it was? I havent seen the transcript yet but in the second half of the debate when they were talking about Iraq, she got passionate sort of a forced passion and said which I will paraphrase but which I will have to check when the full transcript is given on Realclearpolitics. It was roughly this: Concerning Iraq, I want to be proud of the United States again! Proud of the United States AGAIN? The sacrifices the brave men and women have made over there and the pride their parents have in their serviceand Hillary yearns for the day when she can be proud of the United States AGAIN?
Of course Wolf Blitzer the consummate lefty didnt catch it or Doyle McManus. One could hardly imagine Obama would capitalize on it because he has shorn the American flag on his lapel and doesnt place his hand over his heart when the national anthem is played. But John McCain would. And Mitt Romney would. Probably any Republican but Ron Paul who indubitably shares her view. But it was a great gaffe.