Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A gem of an article

Hillary Clinton is on tap to speak to the Democratic Convention tonight. So, of course, the New York Times has an Op-Ed Contributor piece by Susan Faludi where she provides a historical perspective that explains why so many of Clinton's supporters remain miffed by both the process and the outcome. At one level I understood the piece, but at a visceral level I didn't get it. So I did a search for angry Clinton supporters, or something to that effect, and found this piece at Salon.com from last June. It's more blatant on the emotional issues, definitely better that way. But I still wasn't satisfied with understanding Hillary Clinton's supporters. So I did more searching.

For some reason the next thought that occurred to me was to look up Bobby Kennedy's Senate race with Kenneth Keating in 1964. Keating was the incumbent in New York, then the most populous state. He was a Nelson Rockefeller Republican, reasonably popular as I recall, though I was only 9 at the time. And Kennedy was obviously not from New York, but rather from Massachussetts. Clinton had a background similar in those respects when she first ran for the Senate.

After striking out for a while in my search I found this piece, the gem of my title. It makes a strong case that Bobby Kennedy won by riding on Lyndon Johnson's coattails. Johnson carried New York by 2.5 million votes (we were terrified of Goldwater). But Kennedy's margin was only 720,000. On that score Clinton obviously was a stronger candidate since there was essentially no coattail effect from the Bush-Gore Presidential election. (Alternatively, the Republican Senate candidate in 2000 was weaker, with less name recognition.)

In the midst of this piece I stumbled across the following to which I had to outwardly utter a loud WHOA!!

The chairman of Kennedy's Senate campaign, R. Peter Straus, said he came to view Kennedy's Massachusetts residence as perhaps the biggest obstacle to winning the election. ''It was a big issue, this carpetbagging thing,'' he said.

Mr. Straus sounded much like Mrs. Clinton's advisers, though he would not offer any direct comparisons with Mrs. Clinton's situation, noting his own particular relationship with the first family. (Mr. Straus is married to Marcia Lewis, the mother of Monica S. Lewinsky.)

That last parenthetical remark made the world seem so small - and politics so much inside-baseball. I really didn't anticipate seeing Monica Lewinsky's name come up in this piece.

Bobby Kennedy is now an icon, but in 1964 he was no such thing. Indeed, he owed much of his own success in politics at the time to others' vision of JFK, who was an icon, his assassination still very much in the nation's consciousness a year later. This truth seems self-evident.

Likewise it seems self-evident that Hillary Clinton's initial Senate run owed much to the popularity of Bill Clinton. Later, she became the early favorite for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate, again because of this tie. Ultimately, in my opinion, it's this connection that did her in.

I suppose it's just human nature to see your own favorite candidate as virtuous and the rival as Machiavellan. For me, at least, it helps to look outside the current setting to prior circumstance in making this sort of judgment. People do grow, change their modus operandi, or modify their beliefs based on experience, sure enough. But there are parts of us that are our nature and change little if at all. That article is a gem because it provides that sort of window into Hillary Clinton.

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