Commentary Magazine


Topic: Idaho

On the Persistence of Palin and the Possibility of Pence

Quayle was gone after one misspelled word. Howard Dean was finished after a single yell. Gingrich was not the same after a complaint about his seat on a plane. Edmund Muskie was done after a solitary tear.

These men were either the vice president of the United States, or leading presidential candidates, or the Speaker of the House. But they were down for the count after one punch — labeled (and libeled) as ignorant, out-of-control, petulant, and unmanly. Sarah Palin has been spared only the fourth adjective, but only because she has been criticized as too manly: shooting caribou, beating fish, describing animals as meat, riding a souped-up motorcycle.

Her degree from the University of Idaho could only be worse if it were from Eureka College, and her betters are constantly schooling her (“So you see, Sarah, the words ‘death panel’ don’t appear in the bill” and “So you see, Sarah, the phrase ‘blood libel’ refers to the Jews”). But her points were valid, made in a way that focused public discussion. For someone whose career was supposedly over once she made the supposedly disastrous decision to resign as governor, she continues to dominate political discussion — from her Facebook page. She even gets thoughtful columns written about her by people who think fewer columns should be written about her.

And if truth be told, her book was substantially better than Hillary’s. She is not Ronald Reagan, nor Menachem Begin, but the continual advice to her from the right not to run may reflect a certain fear that she might get the nomination if she did; she has certainly demonstrated she can take a punch.

She may nonetheless conclude that her candidacy would be a distraction from the issues she champions, and that another candidate might be better positioned to present them. If so, she might open up the Pence Possibility — a candidacy by someone whose Hillsdale College speech last September was remarkable in my view and came considerably closer to Lincoln than another recent one.

Quayle was gone after one misspelled word. Howard Dean was finished after a single yell. Gingrich was not the same after a complaint about his seat on a plane. Edmund Muskie was done after a solitary tear.

These men were either the vice president of the United States, or leading presidential candidates, or the Speaker of the House. But they were down for the count after one punch — labeled (and libeled) as ignorant, out-of-control, petulant, and unmanly. Sarah Palin has been spared only the fourth adjective, but only because she has been criticized as too manly: shooting caribou, beating fish, describing animals as meat, riding a souped-up motorcycle.

Her degree from the University of Idaho could only be worse if it were from Eureka College, and her betters are constantly schooling her (“So you see, Sarah, the words ‘death panel’ don’t appear in the bill” and “So you see, Sarah, the phrase ‘blood libel’ refers to the Jews”). But her points were valid, made in a way that focused public discussion. For someone whose career was supposedly over once she made the supposedly disastrous decision to resign as governor, she continues to dominate political discussion — from her Facebook page. She even gets thoughtful columns written about her by people who think fewer columns should be written about her.

And if truth be told, her book was substantially better than Hillary’s. She is not Ronald Reagan, nor Menachem Begin, but the continual advice to her from the right not to run may reflect a certain fear that she might get the nomination if she did; she has certainly demonstrated she can take a punch.

She may nonetheless conclude that her candidacy would be a distraction from the issues she champions, and that another candidate might be better positioned to present them. If so, she might open up the Pence Possibility — a candidacy by someone whose Hillsdale College speech last September was remarkable in my view and came considerably closer to Lincoln than another recent one.

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Obama After the Fall

After watching President Obama’s press conference, Democrats who are still left standing must have been mortified. The depth of his self-delusion was stunning.

To put things in perspective: the Democratic Party just suffered the worst repudiation any political party has since before the middle of the last century. The defeat was staggering in the House (where Republicans will net more than 60 seats), in the Senate (+6 for the GOP), and in races for governorships (where the GOP has a net gain of six, with a couple of contests still outstanding). Republicans also took control of at least 19 legislative chambers and gained more than 500 legislative seats. No region in America, not even the Northeast, was untouched by the Republican wave.

If you listened to the president, though, the “shellacking” was because of process rather than substance. ObamaCare, he assured us, is a sparkling, wondrous law; the only downside to it was the horse-trading that went on to secure its passage. They would be “misreading the election,” the president helpfully informed Republicans, if they decide to “relitigate the arguments of the last two years.”

The message from the voters, according to Obama, is that The Car (to use his beloved, overused analogy), while still in the ditch, is undeniably moving in the right direction. We just have to go faster than we are. Democratic losses can be explained because they lost the optics war: in pursuing so many wise and prudent policies all at once, you see, the hyperactive president and his administration only appeared as if they were profligate spenders and champions of big government. And what Mr. Obama most needs to do, we learned, is to get out of “the bubble” (read: Washington) more than he has. A few more trips to Idaho and Wyoming, it seems, and all would be right with the world once more.

And what set of Obama remarks would be complete without the requisite lecturing — in this case, on the importance of “civility in our discourse” and the importance of being able to “disagree without being disagreeable.” This admonition comes after Obama, during the last few days of the campaign, referred to his opponents as “enemies,” hinted that the Tea Party Movement is tinged with racism, charged Republicans with being dishonest, and accused, without a shred of evidence, the Chamber of Commerce of using illegal money to support Republican candidates across the country. But never mind. After his victory in 2008, Obama’s message to Republicans was: “I won.” Today, after his party was throttled, Obama’s message is: “Come let us reason together.”

What we saw today was less a president than a dogmatist — a man who appears to have an extraordinary capacity to hermetically seal off events and evidence that call into question his governing philosophy, his policies, and his wisdom. The election yesterday was above all a referendum on the president’s policies, yet his big takeaway was not to relitigate his agenda. He speaks as if he’s a lawyer rather than a lawmaker.

There was, to be sure, a concession here and there, around this edge and that. But one could not come away from Obama’s press conference without feeling that there isn’t anything substantive he would change about the past two years — that at the core of his problems is the inability of the polity to more fully apprehend his greatness.

“During my four years at Oxford I read hard, and finished with a considerable stock of miscellaneous knowledge,” Lord Tweedsmuir wrote in his memoirs. “That mattered little, but the trend which my mind acquired mattered much. … More and more I became skeptical of dogmas, looking upon them as questions rather than answers. … The limited outlook of my early youth had broadened.”

It is the trend of Obama’s mind — rigid, ideological, and self-justifying — that should worry Democrats. The author of one of the worst political debacles in American history seems to have learned almost nothing from it.

After watching President Obama’s press conference, Democrats who are still left standing must have been mortified. The depth of his self-delusion was stunning.

To put things in perspective: the Democratic Party just suffered the worst repudiation any political party has since before the middle of the last century. The defeat was staggering in the House (where Republicans will net more than 60 seats), in the Senate (+6 for the GOP), and in races for governorships (where the GOP has a net gain of six, with a couple of contests still outstanding). Republicans also took control of at least 19 legislative chambers and gained more than 500 legislative seats. No region in America, not even the Northeast, was untouched by the Republican wave.

If you listened to the president, though, the “shellacking” was because of process rather than substance. ObamaCare, he assured us, is a sparkling, wondrous law; the only downside to it was the horse-trading that went on to secure its passage. They would be “misreading the election,” the president helpfully informed Republicans, if they decide to “relitigate the arguments of the last two years.”

The message from the voters, according to Obama, is that The Car (to use his beloved, overused analogy), while still in the ditch, is undeniably moving in the right direction. We just have to go faster than we are. Democratic losses can be explained because they lost the optics war: in pursuing so many wise and prudent policies all at once, you see, the hyperactive president and his administration only appeared as if they were profligate spenders and champions of big government. And what Mr. Obama most needs to do, we learned, is to get out of “the bubble” (read: Washington) more than he has. A few more trips to Idaho and Wyoming, it seems, and all would be right with the world once more.

And what set of Obama remarks would be complete without the requisite lecturing — in this case, on the importance of “civility in our discourse” and the importance of being able to “disagree without being disagreeable.” This admonition comes after Obama, during the last few days of the campaign, referred to his opponents as “enemies,” hinted that the Tea Party Movement is tinged with racism, charged Republicans with being dishonest, and accused, without a shred of evidence, the Chamber of Commerce of using illegal money to support Republican candidates across the country. But never mind. After his victory in 2008, Obama’s message to Republicans was: “I won.” Today, after his party was throttled, Obama’s message is: “Come let us reason together.”

What we saw today was less a president than a dogmatist — a man who appears to have an extraordinary capacity to hermetically seal off events and evidence that call into question his governing philosophy, his policies, and his wisdom. The election yesterday was above all a referendum on the president’s policies, yet his big takeaway was not to relitigate his agenda. He speaks as if he’s a lawyer rather than a lawmaker.

There was, to be sure, a concession here and there, around this edge and that. But one could not come away from Obama’s press conference without feeling that there isn’t anything substantive he would change about the past two years — that at the core of his problems is the inability of the polity to more fully apprehend his greatness.

“During my four years at Oxford I read hard, and finished with a considerable stock of miscellaneous knowledge,” Lord Tweedsmuir wrote in his memoirs. “That mattered little, but the trend which my mind acquired mattered much. … More and more I became skeptical of dogmas, looking upon them as questions rather than answers. … The limited outlook of my early youth had broadened.”

It is the trend of Obama’s mind — rigid, ideological, and self-justifying — that should worry Democrats. The author of one of the worst political debacles in American history seems to have learned almost nothing from it.

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A Democrat by Any Other Name

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

In the final week of the campaign, the Democrats are reduced to a series of Hail Marys and a string of unbelievable claims, one wackier than the next. The campaign “suddenly” went south for them when Karl Rove’s anonymous donors showed up. Next we heard that the voters were “scared” and not thinking straight. Then we learned that Democrats don’t really support Democratic leaders. Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor revealed he didn’t even vote for Obama:

Mr. Taylor had heretofore kept that vote a secret, and perhaps it’s only a coincidence that he rolled it out amid the re-election fight of his career. The 11-term Member added that he won’t support Mrs. Pelosi for Speaker, another revelation considering his vote for her in 2009. “I’m very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left,” Mr. Taylor said, as if Mrs. Pelosi’s ideological predispositions were ever hidden.

Mr. Taylor joins a growing list of Democrats who voted for Mrs. Pelosi in 2009 but now profess to be shocked by her left turn. They include Idaho’s Walt Minnick, Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Alabama’s Bobby Bright and Texas’s Chet Edwards, endangered incumbents all.

It’s somewhere between comical and insulting. The voters can figure out which are the D’s and which are the R’s. And they know that for all their protestations, the “moderates” and the “Blue Dogs” are simply Democrats who rubber-stamped the Obama-Reid-Pelosi agenda. And many of them are going to lose because they were led around by the nose by their liberal leaders and ignored their constituents. The aggrieved voters will exact their revenge next week.

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Mean and Ignorant!

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

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Time To Crow

The Hillary Clinton team together with Senators Evan Bayh and Chuck Schumer held a press call to tout the results from last night. Both senators echoed the same theme: as voters get “serious” (that word was used multiple times), they will come around to Clinton. Schumer bluntly added, “You never count her out.”

In answers to questions, campaign head Mark Penn, advisor Harold Ickes, and spokesman Phil Singer wanted to get out several messages:

1) Barack Obama has yet to be vetted and, as Penn noted, “just a couple of days” of hard questions led to a dramatic decrease in his poll numbers. (There was much encouragement to look at the Obama team’s “puzzling” answers to NAFTA-gate and get “just some basic information” about Tony Rezko.)

2) They repeatedly rebuffed any questions about a VP spot for Clinton, saying she was focused on winning.

3) They again seemed to minimize states like “Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas,” which Obama has won, but which the Democratic nominee is unlikely to win in November. They termed upcoming Wyoming and Mississippi “challenging.”

4) Ickes is pushing undeclared superdelegates to come their way, or, at the very least, to “stand back” and see what else comes to light about Obama.

5) Clearly, they see this as a key moment in the race. Ickes declared they “turned a corner” after a “dry spell.”

Just one more observation: These folks seem to think the world of Republicans, how tough they are, how effective they are in dishing dirt and how hard they will be in a general election. Who knew?

The Hillary Clinton team together with Senators Evan Bayh and Chuck Schumer held a press call to tout the results from last night. Both senators echoed the same theme: as voters get “serious” (that word was used multiple times), they will come around to Clinton. Schumer bluntly added, “You never count her out.”

In answers to questions, campaign head Mark Penn, advisor Harold Ickes, and spokesman Phil Singer wanted to get out several messages:

1) Barack Obama has yet to be vetted and, as Penn noted, “just a couple of days” of hard questions led to a dramatic decrease in his poll numbers. (There was much encouragement to look at the Obama team’s “puzzling” answers to NAFTA-gate and get “just some basic information” about Tony Rezko.)

2) They repeatedly rebuffed any questions about a VP spot for Clinton, saying she was focused on winning.

3) They again seemed to minimize states like “Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas,” which Obama has won, but which the Democratic nominee is unlikely to win in November. They termed upcoming Wyoming and Mississippi “challenging.”

4) Ickes is pushing undeclared superdelegates to come their way, or, at the very least, to “stand back” and see what else comes to light about Obama.

5) Clearly, they see this as a key moment in the race. Ickes declared they “turned a corner” after a “dry spell.”

Just one more observation: These folks seem to think the world of Republicans, how tough they are, how effective they are in dishing dirt and how hard they will be in a general election. Who knew?

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Brooks on Clinton

David Brooks has a fascinating and important column today. In it he recounts how in 1992 Jim Cooper, a Democratic congressman from Tennessee, came up with a health care reform plan that drew bipartisan support but differed from Hillary Clinton’s plan (Cooper’s plan did not include employer mandates to force universal coverage). When Cooper met with Mrs. Clinton to discuss their differences, he found her “ice cold,” in his words. “It was the coldest reception of my life,” he said. “I was excoriated.”

When on June 15, 1993 Cooper told Mrs. Clinton (correctly) that her plan would never get through Congress, Clinton’s response, according to Cooper, was, “We’ll crush you. You’ll wish you never mentioned this to me.”

A war room was set up to oppose Cooper, who was planning to run for the Senate in 1994. His motivations were questioned by the Clinton crowd. People were dispatched to Tennessee to attack his plan. Mrs. Clinton denounced the Cooper plan as “dangerous and threatening” – and according to Newsweek, she brought an aide with a video camera to a meeting with senators and asked the senators to denounce Cooper on the spot.

“We’ll crush you” is an anthem for the Clintons. It, and “war rooms,” embody their approach to politics and governing. The record on this matter is clear and overwhelming: Team Clinton will try to destroy people whom they oppose and believe are a threat to their “political viability.” Of all the reasons to oppose Mrs. Clinton for president, this one ranks near the top. People like her and her husband should not be entrusted with power – and especially with the power of the presidency.

I would add this observation to David’s column. He uses his opening paragraph to declare he is not a “Hillary-hater” – and he supports this declaration by writing this:

She’s been an outstanding senator. She hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005. In this campaign, she has soldiered on bravely even though she has most of the elected Democrats, news media and the educated class rooting against her.

David clearly isn’t a Hillary-hater – he’s not a hater, period, which is one of the reasons he’s liked and respected by so many people – but he overstates things in order to purchase the right to criticize her. Brooks may feel Hillary Clinton is a fine senator – but to say she is “outstanding” is not warranted. If her name was Hillary Jones (D-Idaho) instead of Hillary Clinton, she would be viewed as a capable, liberal-leaning person who has served in the Senate for less than eight years and has no great legislative achievements to her name. On the merits, she probably ranks near the middle or slightly above among the 100 senators.

Beyond that, Brooks writes that she “hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005.” Except that 2005 was not viewed as dark at the time. That was the year, after all, of the Iraqi elections and the “purple finger.” It was a year in which it appeared as if political progress was being made (in fact, the progress was largely illusory). The really dark year in Iraq was 2006 – and that is the year when Senator Clinton began to waiver and then went south on the war she once supported. Worse, she (along with Senator Obama) now supports a withdrawal of American troops and a counterinsurgency strategy that would undercut the enormous gains we have made since General Petraeus began his secure-the-population counter-insurgency operation. She wants to leave Iraq, come what may. It is a reckless plan that would do enormous damage to America, lead to mass death among Iraqis, and be a huge victory for everyone from jihadists to President Ahmadinejad.

As for soldiering on “bravely” in the campaign: she is, after all, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and probably the favorite to be the next President. She travels well, her campaign is flush with cash, she speaks before mostly-adoring audiences, and for much of the campaign she has not endured harsh criticism. To the degree that she has, most of it is due to her and the words and actions of her husband. The fact that she is a dogged campaigner is impressive – but not anymore so than anyone else in the campaign. And to invoke the adverb “bravely” for what she is doing devalues the word.

But those are minor points in an excellent and illuminating column. It is a reminder, if we needed one, why her and her husband’s brand of politics ought to be put on the ash-heap.

David Brooks has a fascinating and important column today. In it he recounts how in 1992 Jim Cooper, a Democratic congressman from Tennessee, came up with a health care reform plan that drew bipartisan support but differed from Hillary Clinton’s plan (Cooper’s plan did not include employer mandates to force universal coverage). When Cooper met with Mrs. Clinton to discuss their differences, he found her “ice cold,” in his words. “It was the coldest reception of my life,” he said. “I was excoriated.”

When on June 15, 1993 Cooper told Mrs. Clinton (correctly) that her plan would never get through Congress, Clinton’s response, according to Cooper, was, “We’ll crush you. You’ll wish you never mentioned this to me.”

A war room was set up to oppose Cooper, who was planning to run for the Senate in 1994. His motivations were questioned by the Clinton crowd. People were dispatched to Tennessee to attack his plan. Mrs. Clinton denounced the Cooper plan as “dangerous and threatening” – and according to Newsweek, she brought an aide with a video camera to a meeting with senators and asked the senators to denounce Cooper on the spot.

“We’ll crush you” is an anthem for the Clintons. It, and “war rooms,” embody their approach to politics and governing. The record on this matter is clear and overwhelming: Team Clinton will try to destroy people whom they oppose and believe are a threat to their “political viability.” Of all the reasons to oppose Mrs. Clinton for president, this one ranks near the top. People like her and her husband should not be entrusted with power – and especially with the power of the presidency.

I would add this observation to David’s column. He uses his opening paragraph to declare he is not a “Hillary-hater” – and he supports this declaration by writing this:

She’s been an outstanding senator. She hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005. In this campaign, she has soldiered on bravely even though she has most of the elected Democrats, news media and the educated class rooting against her.

David clearly isn’t a Hillary-hater – he’s not a hater, period, which is one of the reasons he’s liked and respected by so many people – but he overstates things in order to purchase the right to criticize her. Brooks may feel Hillary Clinton is a fine senator – but to say she is “outstanding” is not warranted. If her name was Hillary Jones (D-Idaho) instead of Hillary Clinton, she would be viewed as a capable, liberal-leaning person who has served in the Senate for less than eight years and has no great legislative achievements to her name. On the merits, she probably ranks near the middle or slightly above among the 100 senators.

Beyond that, Brooks writes that she “hung tough on Iraq through the dark days of 2005.” Except that 2005 was not viewed as dark at the time. That was the year, after all, of the Iraqi elections and the “purple finger.” It was a year in which it appeared as if political progress was being made (in fact, the progress was largely illusory). The really dark year in Iraq was 2006 – and that is the year when Senator Clinton began to waiver and then went south on the war she once supported. Worse, she (along with Senator Obama) now supports a withdrawal of American troops and a counterinsurgency strategy that would undercut the enormous gains we have made since General Petraeus began his secure-the-population counter-insurgency operation. She wants to leave Iraq, come what may. It is a reckless plan that would do enormous damage to America, lead to mass death among Iraqis, and be a huge victory for everyone from jihadists to President Ahmadinejad.

As for soldiering on “bravely” in the campaign: she is, after all, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and probably the favorite to be the next President. She travels well, her campaign is flush with cash, she speaks before mostly-adoring audiences, and for much of the campaign she has not endured harsh criticism. To the degree that she has, most of it is due to her and the words and actions of her husband. The fact that she is a dogged campaigner is impressive – but not anymore so than anyone else in the campaign. And to invoke the adverb “bravely” for what she is doing devalues the word.

But those are minor points in an excellent and illuminating column. It is a reminder, if we needed one, why her and her husband’s brand of politics ought to be put on the ash-heap.

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