Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flawless Victory

Tonight Barack Obama showed he has the gravitas to become President of the United States.

Why did Hillary lose so big? Certainly, she had the misfortune of going against the tide of history and, potentially, the greatest political figure since Ronald Reagan. Clinton simply couldn't inoculate enough people against the viral load of Barack Obama. Like President Clinton, Obama used his father's absence to motivate him. He became a devoted husband and father and satisfied his id by earning admiration in public life. His urges, unlike the former president, never grew beyond his control and were sublimated into an acceptable form.

But for all of Obama's copious gifts, Senator Clinton's losses are of galactic proportions. What did she do to disable herself? Her husband owns a great share of this defeat. During Al Gore's campaign, the former president was shelved as he was considered a liability. With the former vice president's loss, Bill Clinton never got the chance to affirm his legacy.

After Bill Clinton was dusted off for 2007 he transmogrified into your old college roommate who overstays his welcome, drinks too much liquor, and is socially inappropriate with your teenage daughter. Bill Clinton strayed from the pattern of former presidents who are much more reserved and strategic in expressing support. The Hillary Clinton campaign overestimated the reservoir of goodwill for Bill. They forgot that Bill never had a mandate and, like G.W. Bush, he governed on a narrow electoral platform. It is not without just reason that John F. Harris's biography of the man is titled The Survivor.

Hillary was schizophrenic. She claimed thirty-five years of experience which was comprised mostly of being at her husband's side while Bill clawed out a political existence . Yet she wanted to assert feminist appeal as her own woman and avoid receiving criticism for the very real shortcomings of the Clinton legacy. Even with Barrack she demonstrated a labile affect varying from a conciliatory tone at the close of one debate to berating him like a stereotypical schoolmarm with "shame on you" the next day. These are hardly confidence building maneuvers.

Finally, Hillary Clinton lacked, in George W. Bush's vernacular, the "vision thing." She ran a conventional campaign against an unconventional opponent. She followed the traditional outline of looking for pillars of support: women, working class whites, minorities, especially Latinos, and her own unique transcendence as the first female president. Barack's aspirations were much greater and he made no such distinctions by reaching for everyone. Usually such appeals are reserved for general elections not primaries. But the senator from Illinois has conducted the primary contest as if it were the fall election. Such an inspired choice rivals Hannibal's decision to cross the Pyrenees to attack Rome. Let us hope Scipio does not wait past the horizon.

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