Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hillary Clinton and the GOP: Absorbing Loss

"A sign of wisdom is
learning how
to absorb your losses

without feeling defeated."

-Hoyt Wilhelm

The Permanent Concession of H.R.C.

I'm fed up to here with recriminations against Hillary Clinton's concession. Was it not quite the right tone? Was it two days too late? Two weeks late? Was it too much about her and not enough about the now non-presumptive Democratic nominee? Balderdash!

No one takes a loss harder than a political candidate, especially at the presidential level. Reference the testimony of McGovern and Mondale, for example: the sadness of what might have been lingers for decades. Not to mention candidates' guilt and remorse towards their supporters all those
hours of organizing, fund-raising, contributing, and pandering suddenly comes to nothing. At one pivotal moment - the fish-or-cut-bait moment - the candidate recognizes that the untold sacrifice of others, in terms of hours and dollars, is being flushed down her political toilet.

She feels responsible for the fate of her supporters. And, in turn, it is her supporters who, especially, have ill-prepared her for this moment. They have been her most sustaining advocates. They have been the wind beneath her wings. They have promised her that victory is just ahead, in the next round of primaries. The psychology of political campaigns and candidates requires this obeisance to optimism. Toujours l'audace! As the precipice approaches, her cadre knows, but none dare speak of it. The candidate -- having been protected and shielded by her surrogates for so long and from so much of the 'negatives'-- is the last to realize that the loss is hers to bear. Great is the fall from expecting first place to accepting last place.

Because there is no second place. Let's forgive her for hoping for that one, too. Serving as vice-president is, or was, Hillary's only remaining path to reach the White House. In four or eight more years she will be just one more prominent senator with a deal-breaking track record. There are many well-seasoned senators who might make good presidents, but they certainly don't make successful candidates. The carnage of defeated senatorial aspirants for the White House abounds.

So Hillary, as burnt toast, is busted and disgusted. She gets my sympathy, not out of need, but because she has earned it.

The Temporary Concession of the G.O.P.

The king-makers of the Republican Party have thrown in the towel. As the Party of Busheney, Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Bernie Kerik, Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham, Halliburton, Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, (The litany goes on.) They are burnt (French) toast. The veteran party financiers see the writing on the wall and smell the smoke in the air. Contributions are limited because they want to keep their powder dry. Why else do you think Lieberman is taking so long to switch his party alignment? Because the stench and the slime of formally being Republican is too much, even for him. (He's biding his time for a year or two.)

As far as the GOP is concerned, all their primary was about was which stiff were they going to stand up to 'take one for the team'. And, as it turned out, it was to be the stiffest of the stiffs - John McCain. This guy is practically embalmed.

This year's nomination is very much in character with the party's choice in 1996. Bob Dole was not a credible candidate against a popular Bill Clinton. Like McCain today, Dole was just a decorated Grand Ol' Patriot whom the Grand Old Party could stand up and perform as a flag-bearer for its base. McCain, like Dole before him, is basically a flag pole. (Think of the Alamo.) When McCain, like Dole before him, manages to complete a sentence, he cannot remember how he started the sentence.

But there is an ominous quality to John McCain's deliberately inept candidacy. The inner circles of the GOP's power brokers and financiers are well aware that McCain wears a 'kick-me' sign on the seat of his pants. They approve of his candidacy because not only is he Bob Dole II, but because he can also be George Bush III. It's okay with these in-the-know insiders that McCain can't keep Shiia straight from the Sunnis or al-Qaeda separate from the Hezbolla. It's not a problem for them that this old bubble head talks about vetoing beer instead of bills. Whether he's full of Schlitz or Coors, it's immaterial for these oligarchs. McCain has accepted and internalized the hand dealt to him.
I'd rather lose an election than lose a war.
All they care about is that he goes down with guns blazing, chanting bomb-bomb-bomb Iran. As a standard bearer, the flag he's expected to carry is Busheney's coat-of-arms. That's one with the three III's:
Israel, Iraq, Iran
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
McCain is wearing a bullseye on his back. Why else would he still be pitching to 'the base' after he has clinched the nomination? The Party elders are confident McCain will give them all they ask: Johnny Mac will leave his mark as a defeated, always-faithful, stay-the-course, under-tax and over-spend kind of guy. Why?

Because if the Neo-Con pyramid can hold its place in the sand, unchanged for another 222 days, than the party symbolized by the elephant can return in four or eight short years and pick a reasonably younger, more articulate and charismatic candidate who can ask, "Who lost Iraq?" It will be the future version of a very old Republican template who lost China. It's a variation of the even older der Dolchstosslegende.

That's the whole point in this election year for Republicans. It's not to win it. It's to play it out. It's street theater. The clips from their cell phones will be collected and aggregated in a couple of years for the next cycle. These Republican PNAC types have the long term in mind.

That's the difference between The Hillary Clinton and John McCain campaigns: Hillary wanted the brass ring and expected to win it; Johnny Mac doesn't expect to win it and is just enjoying the ride.

What are the implications? In this immediate time frame, the most critically important judgment that a presidential nominee can make is exercising his choice of a running mate. Historically, this has most frequently shown a need to 'balance' the ticket. What I am saying, is that, going forward, Obama should ask himself who can best help him govern. If he chooses well, voters will find his ticket to be exquisitely in balance.