Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Notes from the Edge: The Dynasty Factor

Man's condition: Inconstancy, boredom, anxiety.

Thought I would offer occasional bits and pieces from the campaign trail, under the heading "Notes from the Edge." There's a lot of jockeying going on among the candidates right now, as the long and winding road gets underway. Would like to talk about several things but don't have the time. Here's a quick first installment.

The Dynasty Factor

The Los Angeles Times brings up the potential 28-year Bush/Clinton monopoly on the White House. Basically, it looks like this:

1988 - Bush
1992 - Clinton
1996 - Clinton
2000 - Bush
2004 - Bush
2008 - Clinton
2012 - Clinton

I include the whole editorial, because one needs a subscription to the LA Times and their articles can vanish quickly:
Geffen has a point about the Clintons
Geffen is right: Hillary Clinton must address the perception that the White House is home to dynasties.

February 23, 2007

THERE ARE TWO THINGS to be said about the first major intramural spat of the 2008 Democratic primary season. The first is that David Geffen has a point (and we're not saying that just because there is a remote chance that we might work for him someday). The second is that if California moves up its primary, presidential candidates visiting here will soon have to pander to more than just Hollywood moguls.

Geffen, once among Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton's biggest financial backers, threw Hollywood's first mega-fundraiser of the election cycle on Tuesday — for Barack Obama. His criticism of Hillary Clinton, reported Wednesday by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, sparked an amusingly overwrought exchange between the Clinton and Obama camps.

Geffen was on to something with his passing mention of the fact that Obama is not from "the Bush royal family" or the "Clinton royal family." Regardless of what you think of Bill Clinton's presidency, or his wife's talent, the dynastic aspect of Hillary Clinton's candidacy is an issue that will increasingly come to occupy center stage in this campaign. Is the country prepared to be governed, potentially, for 28 years by two families who alternate turns in the White House?

The Clinton campaign appears unwilling to acknowledge this concern. The candidate likes talking to audiences about whether the nation is ready for a female president. But the question of whether the country is ready to perpetuate the dueling-family reign by voting in the former president's spouse is disingenuously left off the table. Maybe Hillary Clinton can make the case that she is the most qualified candidate, but she is going to have to find a way to address the dynastic issue directly. She can't have it both ways — trading on her husband's popularity but not acknowledging people's unease at turning the White House into a family business.

Yet Californians, at least, may be grateful that candidates vying for the 2008 presidential nomination in both parties will have to worry not only about what big donors think of them but what all Californians think. In recent presidential primary seasons, the California contest hasn't gotten beyond the David Geffens because the state has been solely a fundraising battlefield. But now that California is likely to move its presidential primary to early February, candidates will no longer think of their California constituencies as consisting solely of that other royalty: Hollywood celebrities.

So, if you are frustrated that one Californian's view on the race could be so newsworthy, bear with us. You'll get your turn.
Barack Obama is going to tap into this a lot, I believe, as he pushes his "new approach to politics" theme. Do people want to keep going with the bitter partisanship from the last several administrations? You wanna keep the old style - Bill and Hillary and all their baggage? Or do you want something new - Obama-rama! That's how it will be framed.

The Geffen episode also seems to have opened the door for discussing Bill Clinton. Up until then, I found it interesting how little we were hearing about him, considering that he would be First Husband if Hillary won. Now, suddenly, articles are mentioning Hillary and Bill together. What will his impact be on the race and on her chances?


Liam said...

I think it will be like this:
the twins as consuls for life

cowboyangel said...

I don't know, I think Jenna and Barbara may be living in the secret compound in Paraguay by then. Ruling most of Latin America.

Sad, isn't it, that Billy Carter never got his chance? Think of all the free beer we could have had!

What about "Notes from the Edge"? Dorky? I'm undecided.

Liam said...

Not Dorky. You are on the edge of New York State, after all.

crystal said...

I think the dynasty thing really doesn't have anything to do with the worth of the person chosen - it's a sort of guilt-by-association :-)

Jeff said...

Blaise Pascal?? That Jansenist!

The Dynastic thing is really quite something when you see it in print like that, isn't it?

I think that the founding fathers knew that the public would harbor a tendency towards sliding back into a lazy way of thinking. There is a part of us that wants royalty, that wants to have kings and queens over us. This is probably not something we should see as new. A couple of decades ago the Kennedys and the Roosevelts looked like political royalty. In the early days of the Republic, the Adams line may have appeared that way too.

As for Hillary, I really do think that the country is still suffering from Clinton fatiigue. I really don't think that people want to revisit the nineties, and read all over again about Bill and Hillary, Whitewater, Vince Foster, missing billing records, Monica, Travelgate, et al... Whether it was the stuff that was their own fault or the stuff overblown by their enemies and the media, I think people have had enough and don't want to go back and revisit all this. She just has too much baggage and she's too shrill. I realize, however, that the Clintons cannot be counted out. They have savvy and are among the most ruthless and bare-knuckled politcal infighters out there that I've ever seen.

The same goes to a lesser degree for Al Gore. I hope the accolades at the Oscars don't put the notion into his head that he should run for President. His sanctimoniousness is still insufferable.

It would be much better for the Democrats, IMO, to stick with fresher faces like Edwards and Obama. Of course, Maureen Dowd, for some strange reason known only to her, seems to want to torpedo Obama before he even really gets started.

cowboyangel said...

Crystal, Are we talking about the worth of a person or the worth of a system? What does it say about our Oligarchy, I mean our Democracy, for two families to run things for so long?

Fair or not to Hillary, I think her opponents will remind people of this over and over.


If there's so much Clinton fatigue, why does she have such a large lead over the other Democrats right now? Some people really liked the Clintons and may not have the same associations you or I may have. As the campaign wears on, however, the Clinton fatigue may become more of a factor. I think right now Bill looks pretty damn good compared to the surrender monkey in the White House.