June 07, 2003

Time to Pound My Head Against the Wall Once Again

The Economist's Lexington correpondent devotes a full page to Hillary Rodham Clinton (with a time out for slams at Sidney Blumenthal for being a "brown-noser" and Paul Krugman for being "shrill"):

... wronged woman... staggering revelations... Clintonia... that bitchy, chaotic house party.... Since September 11th, the United States has had more important things to think about.... Mrs Clinton's past... future... an incredibly potent force... a heroine... a hate-figure... the most likely next Democratic president... "Draft Hillary"... conservative... capacity to elicit frenzied support from her core constituency... money... volunteers... Mrs Clinton's credibility with the left has also allowed her to move further to the centre... she does not have to buy the left's support... self-discipline... Senate campaign in 2000... impressively tank-like... broadening her experience... constituency work... Democratic givers... successful senator from a large and rich state... name recognition... support of many women... embodies the Democratic America that won the popular vote in 2000....

Read the column--it's a long column. Reflect upon several facts. First, almost all of the column is "inside political baseball" of little use to anyone who is not a serious political junkie. Second, "Lexington" doesn't like Hillary Rodham Clinton or Bill Clinton or Paul Krugman or Sid Blumenthal--but doesn't bother to say why. Third, there is nothing in the column to give the reader any information about whether Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president, or about whether "Lexington" thinks Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president. Is there anything else that readers--most of whom are Americans, most of whom vote--more need to learn than whether Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a good president? No, there isn't. So why does "Lexington" spend so much time on insider political baseball and trying to settel scores? Why doesn't he do something useful with his space--like tell us whether he thinks Hillary Rodham Clinton would make a better president than George W. Bush (almost surely) or would make a good president (almost surely not)?

We really do need a better press corps. We need one very badly. "Lexington" spends more time watching Hillary Rodham Clinton than almost every single one of his readers: almost all of his readers would value--and badly need to know--his judgment about whether she would make a good president. But this is the one thing "Lexington" does not talk about.

My two cents' worth--and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994--is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. Heading up health-care reform was the only major administrative job she has ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

So when senior members of the economic team said that key senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have this-and-that objection, she told them they were disloyal. When junior members of the economic team told her that the Congressional Budget Office would say such-and-such, she told them (wrongly) that her conversations with CBO head Robert Reischauer had already fixed that. When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate. And when substantive objections were raised to the plan by analysts calculating the moral hazard and adverse selection pressures it would put on the nation's health-care system...

Hillary Rodham Clinton has already flopped as a senior administrative official in the executive branch--the equivalent of an Undersecretary. Perhaps she will make a good senator. But there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president.

Posted by DeLong at June 7, 2003 10:15 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Her management skills sound eerily like those of George W. Bush.

Posted by: Dan on June 8, 2003 05:31 AM

Oh that's just pathetic. In what way, Dan, do HRC's management skills resemble those of GWB's? Enumerate, please. Enlighten us. Or was that just another insipid 'bush-is-a-moron' crack, tirelessly (and tiresomely) trotted out against all the evidence?

All the evidence is to the contrary: that Bush runs an administration that is vastly more collegial than anything in recent years. He asks for advice and, mirabile dictu, actually listens to it. He might not always heed the advice, but he listens. Compare and contrast to one William Jefferson Clinton (and notably the points Brad raises about Hillary). Is there a single substantive area in which GWB's management style could be likened to that of those two failures?

Posted by: David Gillies on June 8, 2003 08:06 AM

"another insipid 'bush-is-a-moron' crack, tirelessly (and tiresomely) trotted out against all the evidence?"

I don't know about styles, but if the test is results, I'd say Bush's business career is pretty good evidence that he's no managerial genius. The man is a serial failure.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on June 8, 2003 08:52 AM

Isn't the question whether Hillary Clinton learned from the right lessons from the failure of her healthcare reform efforts? I wouldn't necessarily write her off based solely on this failure.

Certainly, her Senate election campaign and her performance in the Senate suggest she has become a shrewd compromiser (in fact, maybe, with too much compromise and too little fight for my tastes). Her political attennae seem much more calibrated and attuned than there were in the early '90s.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on June 8, 2003 09:03 AM

I am skeptical of Clinton's electablity. She is tarnished with all the non-scandals of her husband, she isn't as likeable personally, and a number of moderate women who have conservative tastes hate her (and they often hate her more than other women senators).

However, I have to ask three things:
1) Brad did you actually work on this on the inside? I'm just curious.
2) Was her failure with Healthcare really routed in these mistakes, or was it a product of the difficulty of getting a healthcare plan through? Specifically, you list a number of mistakes she made, but did they matter?
3) On the subject of Bush: The professionals in the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, EPA, and tons of government agencies have leaked that teh Bush administration just ignores their advice and facts and asks them to generate facts to his liking. That's delusional, NOT competent. I don't think I've heard of a President upsetting so many Agencies. Also, it's not that he's "shaking things up" it's that he's "insisting they lie about everything". Sounds like a good CEO in the short term, but a horrible one in the long term. Still, he might get out with all his stock options in place. I mean, how much has he forced them to torture economic reports to justify this tax cut?

Posted by: MDtoMN on June 8, 2003 09:06 AM

I am skeptical of Clinton's electablity. She is tarnished with all the non-scandals of her husband, she isn't as likeable personally, and a number of moderate women who have conservative tastes hate her (and they often hate her more than other women senators).

However, I have to ask three things:
1) Brad did you actually work on this on the inside? I'm just curious.
2) Was her failure with Healthcare really routed in these mistakes, or was it a product of the difficulty of getting a healthcare plan through? Specifically, you list a number of mistakes she made, but did they matter?
3) On the subject of Bush: The professionals in the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, EPA, and tons of government agencies have leaked that teh Bush administration just ignores their advice and facts and asks them to generate facts to his liking. That's delusional, NOT competent. I don't think I've heard of a President upsetting so many Agencies. Also, it's not that he's "shaking things up" it's that he's "insisting they lie about everything". Sounds like a good CEO in the short term, but a horrible one in the long term. Still, he might get out with all his stock options in place. I mean, how much has he forced them to torture economic reports to justify this tax cut?

Posted by: MDtoMN on June 8, 2003 09:10 AM

"We're all republicans now, tra la."

Thanks, Garrison.

Posted by: jd on June 8, 2003 09:29 AM

Why is every radical-right-looney-Republican bent on silencing Paul Krugman. Imagine how looney and afraid of the slightest dissent these folks are. Stay shrill and shriller, Dear Paul.

Posted by: lise on June 8, 2003 09:35 AM

"for the rest of her life"? That sounds unsupportable. Most of our presidents have been elected late in life, after significant seasoning. Anyone (even G.W. Bush) could significantly change in time. The very example of poor performance you site could have imparted valuable lessons to her.

Posted by: Steve on June 8, 2003 10:13 AM

The thing is, no one knew (or, very few) what they were getting when they elected George W. Bush or Bill Clinton to the presidency. They were relatively obscure, politically, so their faults were a bit hard to discern to the average voter (TM). Hillary Clinton, though, has a very high profile.

Posted by: Julian Elson on June 8, 2003 10:18 AM

I have to say I'm delighted to hear that my impression of Hillary is confirmed by insider information. And, I'll bet Rush Limbaugh is pleased too.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 8, 2003 10:21 AM

The new Lexington really isn't very good. I've been disappointed in his/her columns for the past few months.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on June 8, 2003 10:38 AM

Anyone who bothered to pay attention knew that these "compassionate" Republicans were anything but compassionate. Rather they were and are mean-spirited radical-righties.

Posted by: bill on June 8, 2003 10:53 AM

Rush Limberger is only pleased to be Rush Limberger.

Posted by: arthur on June 8, 2003 10:59 AM

If anyone doubts Prof. DeLong's description of Hillary, try reading her Wellesley Commencement speech without howling. At least by the time she got to the White House her grammar and syntax improved:

http://www.wellesley.edu/PublicAffairs/Commencement/1969/053169hillary.html

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 8, 2003 11:01 AM

All that is necessary is for Hillary Clinton to work hard for people in New York and make sure there are Democrats in the Senate from New York. The point is for Democrats to fight successfully for every political office.

Of course, for those who shill for Rush Limberger....

Posted by: arthur on June 8, 2003 11:24 AM

It is always amazing to me the psychosis that HRC and her husband seem to invoke in some poeple. All reasoning and intellectual integrity just goes out the window.

As for me, I am perfectly willing to believe that HRC is sometimes a bitch, her managerial skills may not be the best, and she is perhaps ambitious beyond her personal merit. What I don't understand is why these traits are so passion-inducing in critics of HRC and at the same time never merit a mention when they manifest in any male politician. Or, for that matter, a conservative female politician like Katherinne Harris.

Posted by: Alan on June 8, 2003 12:25 PM

Gosh, Patrick, you are like so right. That commencement address by Hillary was like, so, unpresidential. By the way could you like post a link to the address that GWB gave his graduating class at Yale, so that we could all, like, totally see what a president should sound like at 22? (and also so that we can like check his grammar and all)

Posted by: achilles on June 8, 2003 12:46 PM

Brad, I think you are preaching to a tone deaf choir.

Posted by: OToole on June 8, 2003 01:19 PM

"My two cents' worth--and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994--is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly."

Whoa!

Brad DeLong for Democratic nominee for President in 2004, 2008, 2012, etc.! ;-)

(I'll be voting Libertarian, of course. But at least if you win, I'll know one of the least bad Democrats is in the White House. ;-))

Posted by: Mark Bahner on June 8, 2003 01:29 PM

"Economist" supported George Bush for President. I care that they do or do not like President or Senator Clinton.

"Bitch" is a needlessly offensive word that seems to dearly excite lots of pseudo macho types. I am not amused. Men are men and women had better never do anything other than amuse and cater to them, unless they are Radical-Republican women of course.

Posted by: lise on June 8, 2003 01:56 PM

"At least by the time she got to the White House her grammar and syntax improved:"

Whatever her other faults, it's now been proven that speaking ability isn't a necessary requirement for the White House.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on June 8, 2003 01:58 PM

The problem for the Bill and Hillary bashers is that the President and First Lady are remarkable politicians who helped insure a period of wondrous prosperity in America.

Posted by: dahl on June 8, 2003 02:01 PM

"Krugman is shrill."

Paul Krugman is only shrill to the looney-radical-right who wish to intimidate all who object to policies that would discard the New Deal and Great Society. Well, I happen to be grateful we have Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and other social benefit programs. I intend to be as shrill as Krugman about pointing out what these radical-righties in the Administration and Congress are about. Yes, I like middle class America!

Funny, the radical-rughties are never shrill. Not Lottee or DeeLayee or Santooorummm, not shrill, not a peep of shrillity.

Posted by: lise on June 8, 2003 02:14 PM

Paul Krugman is offended by stupidity and dishonesty whether it occurs on the left or the right.

The reason he may seem partisan and shrill to some now is that almost all the power and most of the stupidity is on one side these days. He really hasn't changed at all despite what his critics say. Ask Robert Reich.

Posted by: Ben Brackley on June 8, 2003 02:23 PM

Precisely -

It is critical to understand that we are not dealing with a conservative social policy agenda but a radical agenda. If you wish the undo social benefit programs, if you wish to undo conservation efforts, be cheered. I am not cheered.

Posted by: jd on June 8, 2003 02:41 PM

Brad-

Thank you thank you thank you. The scary thing is, I don't know enough to agree or disagree with you. Almost all I have ever heard about Hillary is that she's 1. a bitch 2. obsessed with power 3. married to Bill 4. naive about sexual infidelity 5. a liar 6. etc. etc. etc. Frankly, it's obscene. I very much appreciate the real analysis.

Hillary seems to be instinctively aggressive. She graduated from Yale with higher honors that Bill and she was worth more from the get-go. Brad may be absolutely right on with his assessment, perhaps she will mature in her leadership ability.

I disagree with the notion that 'we don't know anything about them when the come into office.' This is a delusional fantasy. How they will handle their office is never a sure bet, but who they were beforehand is generally well-established. Were there any doubts that Bush was not a very worldly fellow? That he would not cut taxes? That he would drift towards the religious right? That he had no concept of (even disdain for) meritocracy? Houston has surpassed LA in air pollution - was there any doubt that Bush wouldn't implement the same "voluntary cleanup" policy for America? Did anybody actually think that he would propose viable regulatory models for business? Did anybody actually think that he might attempt campaign finance reform?

(To be fair, I thought that he would be rather like his father. Notso hotso, but notso bad either. Bush Senior was at least somewhat responsive and seemed to think more than half a move ahead.)

Cheers!
Saam Barrager

Posted by: Saam Barrager on June 8, 2003 03:40 PM

" It is always amazing to me the psychosis that HRC and her husband seem to invoke in some poeple. All reasoning and intellectual integrity just goes out the window."

Why do you think Hillary had this effect on Prof. DeLong?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 8, 2003 03:56 PM

achilles, dude. Here's Hillary in 1993 (about the time our host would be working with her), note that the ideas she's spouting are the same, they're just presented a little better:

--------------quote--------------
We are caught between two great political forces. On the one hand we have our economy—the market economy—which knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. That is not its job. And then the state or government which attempts to use its means of acquiring tax money, of making decisions to assist us in becoming a better, more equitable society as it defines it. That is what all societies are currently caught between—forces that are more complex and bigger than any of us can understand. And missing in that equation, as we have political and ideological struggles between those who think market economics are the answer to everything, those who think government programs are the answer to everything, is the recognition among all of us that neither of those is an adequate explanation for the challenges confronting us.

And what we each must do is break through the old thinking that has for too long captured us politically and institutionally, so that we can begin to devise new ways of thinking about not only what it means to have economies that don’t discard people like they were excess baggage that we no longer need, but to define our institutional and personal responsibilities in ways that answer this lack of meaning.

We need a new politics of meaning. We need a new ethos of individual responsibility and caring. We need a new definition of civil society which answers the unanswerable questions posed by both the market forces and the governmental ones, as to how we can have a society that fills us up again and makes us feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

Now, will it be easy to do that? Of course not. Because we are breaking new ground. This is a trend that has been developing over hundreds of years. It is not something that just happened to us in the last decade or two. And so it is not going to be easy to redefine who we are as human beings in this post-modern age. Nor will it be easy to figure out how to make our institutions more responsive to the kind of human beings we wish to be.

But part of the great challenge of living is defining yourself in your moment, of seizing the opportunities that you are given, and of making the very best choices you can. That is what this administration, this president, and those of us who are hoping for these changes are attempting to do.
------------endquote----------

That's a self-absorbed, Woodstock Generation voice. She's a child of the 60s,and will never change.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 8, 2003 04:12 PM

I remember lsitening to Capital Gang a year or two ago and Barney Frank said that although Hillarycare had been a political failure it had been a policy success, since about 70% of it was already the law of the land.

As I recall both Bob Novak and Kate O'Beirne agreed with him.

Can anybody shed any light on this?

Posted by: GT on June 8, 2003 04:15 PM

How are you present anything but a 'she's a fraud'/'she's amazing' character sketch! I am outraged by your depiction of her as a three dimensional character!

DeLong wasn't criticizing HRC for anything but her management style and political sense, and the health care debacle was, indeed, a debacle. (It was also Bill's debacle, I might add, but that's not germane).

The right-wing concocts supposed 'crimes' and distorts her words to smear her character. As far as I know, she's ambitious, aggressive, calculating, intelligent, and cares about ideas.

Posted by: MattS on June 8, 2003 04:16 PM

Patrick,

Huh?

I repeat.

Huh?

HRC's speech reads like pretty standard "third way" arguments about the mistakes of economic liberals and social democrats. I simply don't understand what you find so objectionable. Are you trying to confirm the idea that HRC induces psychotic episodes in normally sane people?

Morover, how the heck is calling for a politics of meaning and proactivity an example of what you so eloqently call "self-absorbed, Woodstock Generation" crap? Indeed, this stuff could just as easily come from GWB or the right, if you only added a couple of references to Jesus or God.

A question for Brad: those I know who worked on the Health Care effort hold HRC in relatively high esteem. Indeed, although my sample size is small, I haven't heard anything like your claims before. Most people I know felt that the problems didn't center on her. That, for example, moderate Republicans, especially Dole, essentially sucker-punched them (after promising to take the plan as a starting point for a compromise) and that HRC wasn't to blame for the larger political mistakes the administration and congressional Democrats made. Was your the view at Treasury, or are you just pasing off your own impression as some sort of "general view?"

Posted by: dn on June 8, 2003 04:28 PM

Patrick 'dude':

If you want to criticize Hillary on her record in '93 a la DeLong, thats fine by me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, after all, and most of us not named Tony Scalia have a pretty big disconnect between who we think 'should' be president and who ends up being president.

I was just pointing out the obvious: picking the speech HRC made at her college graduation as a sign of her unsuitability to be president is rather dumb, especially coming from people who idolize GWB despite his shall we say 'slightly blemished' youth.

By the way, was GWB a self-indulgent 'child of the 60s' too? Or are Republicans allowed to self-indulge in drugs and alcohol as long as they don't make speeches at their Commencement ceremonies?

Posted by: achilles on June 8, 2003 05:21 PM

Why do you think Hillary had this effect on Prof. DeLong? Posted by Patrick R. Sullivan at June 8, 2003 03:56 PM

Patrick, I did not say he did. As I said, I am perfectly willing to believe his first-hand assessment. My point was, she does not seem to be worse than many other politicins, and my observation is that traits many people decry in Hillary they laud in other (often male or conservative) politicians.

I am not offended by honest criticisms of the Clintons, even biting ones. What puts me off is the insane need I see in many writings to go and make things up if necessary to depict her as some sort of uber-evil monster.

Admitting for the sake of argument all her attributed faults, I would much rather have HRC in any office than any of the present right-wing Republicans. Maybe you think Tom Delay (I AM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT) is kind, fair, modest, committed to fiscal responsibility and interested in helping the less fortunate, but I don't. Yet Tom Delay never has to cope with widespread distortions of what he said and did. His main trouble is when he is reported accurately and thoroughly.

Understand now?

Posted by: Alan on June 8, 2003 05:37 PM

Brad, your post reads as if you are saying that Hillary would make an abysmal president. Am I misreading this? Have I entered the Twilight Zone?

Posted by: Bobby on June 8, 2003 06:31 PM

Well, to whoever wrote that business about the healthcare debacle as evidence that "there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president" don't you think that maybe Hillary has changed and grown and become a little more politically adept in Washington and willing to compromise (just as Bill became since the ehalthcare debacle)?

I would at least upgrade Hillary to "as good as anybody else" for the job of president. Calling her abysmal is out of the question. And you never know whether the person will be good until they are actually in office -- I think that the ability to predict whether someone will be great is very poor.

Posted by: Bobby on June 8, 2003 06:41 PM

Let us ignore that after over 20 years of subscribing to The Economist, I cancelled my subscription about 1997 because their ideological bent began to seriously tarnish their reporting. They teased me to resubscribing about 3 years ago with a free copy of "The World in Facts and Figures" but I am about at the end of my tolerance.

Brad, I have no idea about your role in the Clintonian health care fiasco, but as a fairly well informed observer, I can never forgive either Clinton for blowing the best opportunity we may ever have to bring the kinds of reform our non-system needs to enhance equity, economic efficiency and national prosperity. Their effort, starting from a virtual mandate, was a monumental botch. There are no kind words for it.

I voted for Clinton twice. God forbid I ever have the choice, I might even vote for Hillary or any of thousands of people who might run against the present cabal...but that's another story.

I am bitter that the Clinton's blew (no pun intended) so many great opportunities. But I am tired of them and those who continue to resurrect them. While interesting historical figures, they are not currently relevant and simply serve to take the eyes off issues and people who are relevant to the health of our nation and perhaps even our species.

"Lexington" wasted another page. Let us not compound the mistake (which I have just been doing to my great chagrin).

Sam Taylor

Posted by: Sam Taylor on June 8, 2003 06:51 PM

So how come no one is commenting about Blumenthal?? He has been a serious journalist and political writer for years. Is it brown nosing to write that the NYT problems go way back before Blair to Jeff Gerth who fell in love with Arkansas racists that made up wild tales about Bill Clinton? Is it brown nosing to write that Jeff Gerth was COMPLETELY wrong about Whitewater and the NYT never admitted that Gerth was a dupe? That his sources were paid off by wealthy right wing Clinton haters and therefore unreliable? No, the Times never admits that they got Whitewater completely wrong.

Oh, by the way, Gerth was completely wrong about the Lee case. You would think that a reporter so easily duped would not last long at the NYT. That is why its stock has gone down. The same is true with the Washington Post. If you read Blumenthal's book and Conason and Lyons (they have never been refuted) then you realize how wrong the press corp was about Whitewater, Paula Jones, etc. The list goes on.

Woodward and Bernstein made their scoop because they "followed the money". Follow the money in Whitewater and it sure doesn't lead to the Clintons. The Clintons lost money on Whitewater. It doesn't lead to McDougal. He was bankrupt before Clinton was elected president. The money flows from wealthy right wing Clinton haters like Scaife and Olin foundations through right wing ideologues like Ted Olsen to pay off Ken Starr's Whitewater witness, the embezzler David Hale and a bunch of racist Arkansas enemies of Clinton that would make the Duke and the Dauphin (Huck Finn) look like saints. So Blumenthal is a brown nose for doing the job that the press should have been doing all along? Follow the Money!!!!

If the public ever understands the truth about the Clinton non-scandals of Whitewater etc, the credibiltiy of the press will be totally shot.

Posted by: bakho on June 8, 2003 10:53 PM

Julian Elson has hit on one of the standard vulnerabilities for well-seasoned presidential candidates. If they have enough experience in public life that we can judge their abilities, then they are vulnerable to being tarred, to being “litmused” (is that one “s” or two?) to death. Hillary Clinton is probably not presidential material for that reason alone. Add in that she would be the first female president (why would we start with her?), that she would suffer from “she’s only being considered because of hubby” in the same way Shrub heard a lot of “he’s only being considered because of daddy” (Republicans seem better able to capitalize on that sort of thing, what with the conservative media bias and all that) and that she is now a New Yorker – not since Roosevelt. Saam Barrager’s dissent on this point can only apply to people with lots of time for reading. I have the uneasy suspicion that isn’t most voters. Take a look at the enormous effort at avoiding specifics from successful presidential candidates. They want to avoid being on record, while running against the record of better known opponents. Doesn't always work, but it is tried and true.

Posted by: K Harris on June 9, 2003 05:20 AM

I like Paul Krugman and I've read all his
popular writings (and the real stuff too
when it was relevant to something or other). In general terms I agree with a lot he says.

But he is shrill. And his style has been
seriously lacking since he started writing
for NY Times (so for a few years now).

I don't know if it's the time
pressure, the lack of space, the employer
or his obsession with GWB (for better or
worse), but I think Lexington nails this one
on the head:

"read, say, Paul Krugman's columns in the New York Times and you are often left worrying less about the commander-in-chief than about the columnist-in-a-tizz"

Everytime I finish one of his columns I slunk
in my chair and moan; "Why Paul, why? I know
it can be so much better! Not to mention
that there's only a countable number of times
that I can read the same damn column about
Bush's tax cut or Social Security.

He definitely needs to diversify his topis.

radek

Posted by: radek on June 9, 2003 07:05 AM

My conclusion from careful reading of the article is that it was written by a partisan GOP hack. It has all the GOP spin points about non-scandals that never happened. Mr. Bush himself has admitted in public that the Whtie House and AF1 were never trashed. However, he never called off the right wing press dogs to stand up for the truth. Mr. Bush preferred to play along with the lie while denying responsibility for his party's political machine.

Has he read Blumenthal's book? The Clinton Wars is critical of Clinton and chronicles the Clinton political missteps. Maybe Bluemthal's book just seems out of balance after a decade of GOP spin about non-scandals that never happened. If Clinton and his administration had really had bad skeletons, in the closet, the right wing would have located them with the millions of dollars they spent on opposition research.

Posted by: bakho on June 9, 2003 07:13 AM

Brad,

Doesn't your argument here, at least partially, go against your earlier posts suggesting that its a bad thing that we keep electing governors who know little about national policy issues, instead of, say, senators, who are well-versed in such things?

The best argument for electing governors is that there is a very real and very important set of executive leadership skills that a person only develops by sitting in the proverbial captain's chair. HRC, though undoubtedly very bright and very hard working, had never run anything in her life, and thus had not had the opportunity to develop those skills.

As valuable as non-executive leadership skills are (for example, the skills one develops as a legislator, or in the case of HRC pre-1993, a partner in a professional services firm), they are no substitute for the skills one develops as the ultimate head of an organization of some size.

I think the reason is that for people working as legislators, or partners in a law firm, or policy wonks, its possible, sometimes even advantageous, to focus intently on one narrow set of problems or issues, or to become somewhat monomaniacal in style. But a governer, or a CEO, or a President, cannot allow himself or herself the luxury of specialization. Being a good chief executive involves performing a constant, never-ending balancing act between competing forces.

Now, personally, its unlikely I'd ever vote for HRC for President. Her politics are not mine. But I would be wary of an HRC Presidency for reasons that transcend politics. Many of the non-political objections I would have to an HRC Presidency would go away if she held a term as a _successful_ executive: mayor of a city, governor of a state, CEO of a corporation or a large non-profit organization. Something. Anything.

SD

Posted by: sd on June 9, 2003 07:37 AM

"All the evidence is to the contrary: that Bush runs an administration that is vastly more collegial than anything in recent years."

Yeah, just ask O'Neill, or DiLulio, or White, or Hubbard, or Lindsay . . . BWB is as known for the colleigaial spirit of his administration as he is for the soundness of his policies

Posted by: rea on June 9, 2003 08:06 AM

Not-so-random thoughts on this Self-Awareness Free Zone:

" 'Why do you think Hillary had this effect on Prof. DeLong? Posted by Patrick R. Sullivan at June 8, 2003 03:56 PM'

"Patrick, I did not say he did."

Sure you did. Take a look at the chronology of the posts, prior to the time you wrote:

" It is always amazing to me the psychosis that HRC and her husband seem to invoke in some poeple. All reasoning and intellectual integrity just goes out the window."

All I'd said was that my impression of her was the same as the Professor's. Who else could you have been referring to?

achilles, there's a difference between being self-indulgent and self-absorbed. More importantly, she still believes (in 1993) what she voiced in 1969.

MattS wrote:

" How are you present anything but a 'she's a fraud'/'she's amazing' character sketch! I am outraged by your depiction of her as a three dimensional character!

....

" The right-wing concocts supposed 'crimes' and distorts her words to smear her character. As far as I know, she's ambitious, aggressive, calculating, intelligent, and cares about ideas."

All I did was provide two of her speechs, and briefly pointed out the obvious about HER OWN WORDS.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 9, 2003 08:51 AM

When I read Krugman now, and look at Krugman in the past, I think about this: he almost always attacks that which he thinks is most dangerous, and most injurious to our economy and public. Once you understand that, you understand that he is not "shrill", but merely facing the greatest threat to our Republic in our lifetime.

Posted by: Trickster Paean on June 9, 2003 09:22 AM

"All the evidence is to the contrary: that Bush runs an administration that is vastly more collegial than anything in recent years. He asks for advice and, mirabile dictu, actually listens to it."

You mean we really did find WMDs in Iraq? Bad example. Oh, I see, you mean the President listens to advice from the radical right. Terrific.

Posted by: jerry on June 9, 2003 09:27 AM

The issue really is does Hillary Clinton, did Bill Clinton, support policies that would preserve and strengthen America's social benefit programs? Of course. Thankfully, Hillary
Clinton will be in the Senate for quite some time.

Posted by: Reese on June 9, 2003 09:31 AM

This thread is a good example of why Hillary Clinton SHOULD run for president. The GOP would start a shit-fest so great and so ugly that they would drown in it.

With the republicans unmasked, the political initiative is bound to revert back to the dems. It might actually lead to political reform and the death of the myth of "objective" media too.

Posted by: Punto on June 9, 2003 09:38 AM

Of course, if you are well pleased with fiscal policy that is aimed at undoing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, you really enjoy bashing those who hold such programs have been wonderful for America.

Posted by: jd on June 9, 2003 09:39 AM

Ah yes more pearls of wisdom from Mr. Sullivan. Self-absorbed people are not suitable to be president, but self-indulgent people are.

Of course we all know that the self-absorbed politicians are typically Democrats like JFK, Bill and Hillary, John Kerry but never Republicans like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush.

I guess there are times when those of us who are apparently in a "self-awareness free zone" should be grateful that we don't join you in your "awareness free zone".

By the way why don't you add this to another of the voluminous letters you send to your boy Luskin. I am sure he would love nothing better than to get in a shot at De Long and Hillary, two people who churn up that inferiority complex of his. Even better, see if you can work something Krugman said when he graduated from Yale many decades ago to hit the trifecta.

Posted by: achilles on June 9, 2003 09:59 AM

After reading the Lexington piece I have to say that it is not nearly as harsh on Hillary as Brad's post is. I just have to take issue with the assumption in the Economist that 2004 is a done deal. After all the Economist has not had much nice to say about US economic policy (except when comparing it to European economic policy). Is there any reason to assume that in 17 months the economy will not be the number one issue, and how will GWB defend his record on the economy in a real debate?

As for Krugman, I love every piece by him, but Lexington still has a point. They write, "One reason liberals can't lay a finger on Mr. Bush is that they are just too damn angry to punch straight: read, say, Paul Krugman's columns in the New York Times and you are often left worrying less about hte commander-in-chief than abou the columnist-in-a-tizz." To me this is saying that often Krugman lets his anger get in the way of the point he is trying to make. In addition I would add that often Krugman gets in trouble with his arguments when they move farther from economics. I still love to read them, but his arguments are much, much, more effective when he sticks with what he knows, rather than being just another angry blogger venting at the President.

And after all that I have to add that I would have expect the Economist to agree with most of Krugman's take on the US and world economy. It is just good economics, and that is what the Economist is about when it is at its best. But what do I know?

Posted by: Rich on June 9, 2003 10:01 AM

Trickster wrote:

"Once you understand that, you understand that he is not "shrill", but merely facing the greatest threat to our Republic in our lifetime."

Now this, kids, is what we'd call "shrill." Was the greatest threat to our Republic in our lifetime the fact the Soviet Union for many years aimed enough inter-continental nuclear weapons at us to burn human civilization off the face of the earth? Was the greatest threat to our Republic in our lifetime Watergate? Was it Sept. 11? No, it must be a President whose tax policies we don't like and who doesn't pay lip service to the UN.

And this, kids is why those of us who think Paul Krugman is "shrill" do so. Because he embellishes legitimate political disagreements, both on issues of policy and issues of how the administration conducts itself, with apocalyptic language that would sound right at home in a high school civic class essay by a disaffected 17 year old.

-SD

Posted by: sd on June 9, 2003 10:03 AM

"Was the greatest threat to our Republic in our lifetime the fact the Soviet Union for many years aimed enough inter-continental nuclear weapons at us to burn human civilization off the face of the earth?"

As it turned out, no.

Posted by: StrontiumDog on June 9, 2003 11:36 AM

"One reason liberals can't lay a finger on Mr. Bush is that they are just too damn angry to punch straight."

This is an odd criticism to make of Krugman. He has been making the hardest, straightest, most accurate punches of anybody out there. I suppose if you are a crooked judge, you can call a fight any way you want.

Posted by: nameless on June 9, 2003 11:58 AM

Administration Economic Policy -

Private-sector payrolls are down 260,000 this year and are down by 3.1 million, or 2.8%, since the recession began in March of 2001, the largest percentage decline in any post-WWII recession.

Persistently high unemployment has caught up with wage growth; for the first time since 1990, real median earnings fell for the last four quarters in a row.

The administration argued that its tax cut would lead to the creation of 1.4 million new jobs by the end of 2004. But it is not widely recognized that according to their own projections, these new jobs are expected in addition to the 4.1 million jobs the economy would generate on its own without the tax cuts.

Thus, for their plan to accomplish its stated goal, the economy will need to generate an average of 344,000 new jobs per month between now and the end of 2004.

Posted by: jd on June 9, 2003 12:36 PM

The next time you watch '04 candidates debate or speak, try out my '04 Dem Prez candidate drinking game here, you are sure to get wasted!

Posted by: DPB on June 9, 2003 02:05 PM

The Economist's "Lexington" follows the practice of most American media of writing about what it knows (a potential candidate's suitability for the campaign horse race) and avoiding what it doesn't (in this case, Mrs. Clinton's record on the major substantive task she undertook during her husband's administration).

The media are not alone in this. During her Senate campaign, for example, Mrs. Clinton got away with basically refusing to discuss the health care fiasco (or anything else connected with her role as First Lady), because the Republicans were kind enough to nominate as her opponent a lightweight Congressman unfamiliar with any issue not summarized in the talking points prepared by his campaign staff. It's a common, and usually well-founded, belief that voters don't pay attention to substance come election time, but indulging that belief carries a price.

Posted by: Zathras on June 9, 2003 02:29 PM

So achilles thinks Democrats aren't self-indulgent. Ever see Marilyn Monroe sing, "Happy Birthday, Mr President?

Not to mention that with the trail including Gennifer, Dolly, Sally, Miss America, Kathleen, and Monica (to name only a few), not recognizing what Bill Clinton is, is a spectacular piece of denial. But, then the subject of this thread just did it with Barbara Walters, I hear.

Maybe it's that Republicans grow out of it?

In contrast, here's a sample of the kind of trouble a self-absorbed person gets into:

" When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate."

There are all kinds of clues in the Wellesley speech, and the 1993 "Politics of Meaning" one, that show how Hillary came to that particular grief.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 9, 2003 04:20 PM

>So achilles thinks Democrats aren't self->indulgent.

Burning another non-existent strawman, I see. For the record, I made no such claim. In the future I will add sarcasm tags to avoid confusing you.

All politicians are self-absorbed and most are self-indulgent, e.g. Nixon, Kennedy, Clinton, Bush, Reagan. Those qualities cut across party lines and have done nothing to detract from their electability.

Why self-absorbedness and self-indulgence would make HRC unelectable, given that neither quality has hampered the presidents that came before, is a mystery to me. HRC may never be elected president but that has much more to do with her political ideology, her competence, her last name and her gender than with her ego.

Posted by: achilles on June 9, 2003 05:26 PM

I have an odd viewpoint about the healthcare fiasco. The Clinton's (principally Hillary) became captives of an Ira Magaziner fantasy. What was introduced was pure Magaziner, overcomplicated, impossible to understand, unworkable and trivial to ridicule.

Contrast this with single payer or "health care for all children". Bothe simple, easy to understand, and workable. You could disagree with these two ideas, but they would have been much harder to oppose.

Magaziner, of course, has always been able to sell himself. I think of his plans, much as Krugman thinks about Bush's tax cuts.

Josh Halpern

Posted by: Joshua Halpern on June 9, 2003 07:49 PM

Time to put down the shovel, achilles, and pick up a dictionary.

Almost all (successful) politicians are anything but self-absorbed. Getting elected requires telling voters what THEY want to hear, not what you want to tell them. It's a form of seduction, and Bill Clinton was particulary good at it--for obvious reasons going back to the back seat of his mother's Chevrolet, probably.

Self-indulgent people simply give in, excessively, to their own destructive desires. Certainly that includes JFK and Bill Clinton. W was self-indulgent in his drinking, but grew out of it before he got into politics--and he is probably the least self-absorbed individual in public life, I've ever seen.

Neither attribute can be ascribed to Nixon, Reagan, or GHW Bush. They were merely well-focused individuals. Contrast that with Al Gore, whose self-absorption--stunningly displayed in two of the three debates--cost him the presidency.

BTW, you seem to have a few unhealthy obsessions of your own. I've probably produced 100 times as much material for Semi-Daily Journal than for Donald Luskin. And it's pretty clear that the Prof. and I agree about Hillary for similar (i.e. Hayekian) reasons. So, is it your belief that Prof. DeLong is "my boy"?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 10, 2003 07:32 AM

Nope sorry but DeLong is way out of your intellectual depth and breadth to be "your boy". Luskin on the other hand is well within.

And given that your dictionary seems to define Republican politicians as invariably not being self-absorbed and Democratic politicians as being invariably self-absorbed (unless they were trying to sleep with young women), there really is not much point in carrying on this conversation.

After all, what would one gain by arguing with someone who seems to think that making unnecessary landings on aircraft carriers in fighter planes indicates 'focus' rather than 'ego'. I do want to say, by the way, the notion that Richard Nixon was not self-absorbed and egomaniacal but merely 'focused' is the best example yet of your astute judging of character.

Posted by: achilles on June 10, 2003 08:03 AM

Patrick Sullivan,

Before getting too carried away, how about Juanita Broaddrick, Jennifer Fitzgerald and Kay Summersby? Not all are mistresses, exactly, but you get the point. Now, I know thinking about zippers instead of policy became fashionable under Clinton, but can we get back to some issue on which there actually is a substantive difference between Republicans and Democrats?

Posted by: K Harris on June 10, 2003 09:52 AM

>can we get back to some issue on which
>there actually is a substantive
>difference between Republicans and Democrats?
Dear God I hope not. It seems that the useful purpose of *this* thread is substantive differences within political parties. Brad is not saying that the Presidency requires a strong executive competency that all Democrats lack, he's saying that he thinks HRC lacks this competency.

To suggest three further paths of enlightenment, let me ask:

1) of Patrick Sullivan, surely you must believe that Richard Nixon exhibited some characteristics that we do not want in a President [of either party]. Since you imply it wasn't self-absorption, what was it? For extra points, give an example of how some other politician exhibited the same characteristics [and pick a Republican for your example, so that people who are too sensitive to Democrat vs. Republican arguments will not be distracted, and will be able to extend you contribution.]

2) of achilles, limiting yourself to Post-WWII presidents from the Democratic party, whom would you say was most like HRC? What were the major character weaknesses exhibited by this previous President? How could a President HRC act poorly by giving in to similar character weaknesses? By what means could HRC protect herself from acting poorly as President in these ways?

3) of Prof. DeLong, what sort of [hypothetical new] evidence would convince you that either your assessment of HRC had been a mistake, or that HRC had outgrown the weaknesses you see in her as a potential President?


Thank you.

Posted by: Tom on June 10, 2003 11:18 AM

Mike Steele, there's a guy you should meet on this blog, ironically also named Mike. The two of you can spend your time railing at caricature liberals and conservatives and indulge each others paranoid fantasies.

Tom, in response to your question, I did expound a belief that she would not win, but that was based on how I see other people react to her rather than on my own judgment. My thinking is that the union of the groups she alienates: right wing nut jobs, insecure males, anti-Clintonites, anti-New Yorkers, chauvinists, liberals and conservatives who don't think she is competent is too large an initial obstacle to overcome in a national race. Brad is also by no means the only smart liberal who has expressed qualms about HRC. She also does remind me of Al Gore and GWB in how bad she is at giving off the cuff (or at least appearing to be off the cuff) speeches.

On the other hand, these were all the reasons why I thought she would never be elected to the Senate but by all accounts she ran a very workmanlike campaign. If she had beaten Giuliani instead of Lazio I would be even more impressed.

So I guess the answer to your question is that I don't share BDL's belief that HRC will be a bad president: certainly she would be a better president than Jeb Bush would! But I don't think that America is ready to elect her president. I am not even sure America is ready to elect a woman as president which makes her task doubly hard.

Posted by: achilles on June 10, 2003 12:29 PM

Bernard Yomtov: It's my understanding that most good politicians are business failures, the best example being Abraham Lincoln. The two fields require sets of different and mutually contradictory skills.

A businessperson's job is to make money for the shareholders. A politician's job is to inspire a nation with a vision of how it could be, and reconcile all the conflicts among the various interest groups.

A politician who acts like a businessperson will be a colossal failure. He will ignore everything that doesn't relate to "the bottom line." And soon he'll be so thouroughly despised by all that there will be cheering in the streets when he's thrown out.

A businessperson who acts like a politician will spend so much time coddling every possible interest group (trying to please everybody) that nothing will get done, nothing he says will be believed, and he'll be fired straightaway.

Ross Perot is a good businessman. Thank God he's not president. Ghandi was never very successful as a practicing attorney (if he was, he might not have gone into politics). But he was a political genius.

Bush's business failures are probably an asset to his current office, not a liability.

Posted by: Dean on June 10, 2003 12:38 PM

HRC inspires a reaction like no one else because she is like no one else. She has no real sweat equity to show: HRC never ran for anything until the Demos booted DPM to give her a safe run in NY (like when they disposed of Keating to give the seat to RFK jr). She lacks a passionate belief in anything but herself. Presidential candidates have generally had candidates of strong beliefs, who were of goodwill, who were not afraid to stand for a position and who did not routinely demonize opponents. Humphrey, Nixon, Reagan, McGovern (yes him too) even Bill Clinton stood for somehting--maybe not what you wanted but there they were, taking the heat. Yes they were tough fighters but they didn't demonise the other side. HRC is afraid to endorse a cause unless its safe; lacks any passion for a cause if its a loser; lacks an ability to work with real people (she is the type that shows up and fires the long time servants, employees and replaces them with her "favorites"); seems to be the type that lines her staff with sycophants; people that have been around a while recognize the type--be it in a man or a woman-- and re act to her accordingly. Better to elect George McGovern with beliefs than some hollow shell with a perpetual finger in the wind.

Posted by: frank drebbin on June 10, 2003 12:40 PM

For what its worth, I voted for Bush I, Clinton (once) and libertarian ever since. I didn't start out a clinton hater. I was made one by the Clintons themselves.

Bush II was arguably a failure in business (I think the record is mixed, which isn't bad in high risk, high reward oil ventures), but he has a track record, whatever it is.

HRC's only real job was being a big firm lawyer while her husband was either Sect State or Gov of the state. If my wife held such a job, I would be a big firm parnter the next day. She obviously didn't have a very good record keeping system either (oh, here are the billing records you subpoenaed, in my bedroom).

As for economic claims sprinkled above, allow me to make my observations. The recession did not begin in 2001; the economic decline began in early to mid 2000, before the election. The current economic downturn is not Bush II's fault.

Nor does Clinton get credit for the economic successes during the Clinton 8 years. With the exception of a hiccup in 1991 that cost Bush I the election, our country had 20 straight years of impressive economic growth. That growth had its roots mostly in Reagan era policies. Couple that with the technology and dot com boom of the 90's (which would have happened regardless of who was being blown in the White House), Clinton only had to stay out of the way. With Morris telling him to act like a moderate/republican, he was able to stay out of the way. But Clinton has no claim to being responsible for that economy. He probably isn't even to blame (but neither is Bush II) for this economy, which started its predictable decline when the dot com bubble that spurred growth started busting.

As for HRC as president, I fear her b/c she, unlike WJC, seems to be a true believer. The policies she believes in are bad for the country, her administration will be every bit as corrupt as the WJC one, and she is less likely to give in on her core socialist agenda. Her quotes above are rhetorical socialism. To the extent that they could come from a Republican (if sprinkled with God or Jesus), then you know why I voted libertarian. You either believe in freedom or you don't. HRC believes in government.

KJ

Posted by: KJ on June 10, 2003 12:42 PM

For the last 75 years the press (based in New York) has touted one New Yorker after another as the brilliant politician who is sure to grab the White House. And in the last 100 years, no New Yorker who wasn't named Roosevelt has even come close, while major political figures come out of nowheres like Hope, AK and Dixon, IL and Whittier, CA. Hillary, whatever her virtues as a senator, will be president as soon as we finish having President Giuliani, President Cuomo, President Rockefeller, President Lindsay, President Dewey...

Posted by: Mike G on June 10, 2003 01:09 PM

(Check the nasdaq and other charts for 2001, when Billary was still pres)?

Surely someone clever enough to come up with the moniker "Billary" knows who was president in 2001?

Posted by: achilles on June 10, 2003 01:21 PM

Well, it seems Brad has been noticed in the wider world:

http://www.instapundit.com/archives/009995.php#009995

I hope this doesn't get unpleasant for Brad.

Posted by: stefan on June 10, 2003 01:24 PM

Hillary Clinton is an odd character in that there is something about her that puts people on edge. When I first saw her, I was fairly apolitical, though supportive of liberal causes by cultural background (Long Island). Yet for some reason when I first saw her I immediatly didn't like her. I don't know why. I don't understand why, though I've tried to figure it out.
In people who are politically conservative, this sort of visceral reaction would be exacerbated to the hatred you see today.

Posted by: David Brown on June 10, 2003 02:16 PM

>Why does every lefty posting hereon think a one->size-fits-all, Washington decides Hillarycare >healthcare system would be anything but a >massive failure?

Ah another of the right-wing warriors who needs to set up imaginary strawmen to burn with their fiery 'logic'. This is particularly funny since it appears as a comment to a post in which the host, who has certainly been categorized as an ultra-liberal, expressed why Hilarycare was (in his mind) a failure.

So here's the deal: if you have to bring socialism, the Soviet Union, Marx and the Rose law firm into your post, then you probably aren't making much of a substantial point. Most likely you are probably just repeating the buzz words heard during the daily dose of wisdom from the Maharushie, which happen to be reverberating inside the echo chamber.

Posted by: achilles on June 10, 2003 03:43 PM

Thanks Forbes. If you had not informed us that the market peaked in March 2000 we would never have known. We are heatened to know that someone with the first name of Forbes will always set us straight about financial matters.

P.S. If you really (and not for the sake of placating your imaginary liberal demons) want to know who plays the laughable game of linking stock market booms to the president and his policies go read Larry Kudlow in the NRO. I don't think he is a pinko commie though.

Posted by: achilles on June 10, 2003 03:47 PM

Russia is in a worse shape than the former URSS. But it is all right for the inhabitants of the USA, they get the benefits of rampant crime. Had the URSS shunted the IMF counseling, like China, it would still be here. Any country that heeds US inspired policies will end worse for their pains.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on June 10, 2003 03:57 PM

Frank,

The Dems didn't "boot" DPM to make a seat for HRC. He retired. The Dems couldn't find a decent in-state candidate. Here name was floated. She ran. She won in a landslide (she won counties upstate or came close to wining counteries upstate that skew quite Republican).

Posted by: dn on June 10, 2003 07:39 PM

Ummm. Aren’t we drifting from the specific points brought up in DeLong’s post?

In all fairness even those such as myself who don’t particularly care for Ms. Clinton should give her credit where credit is due. In the first place few accounts of the Clintons political rise from a backwater to the White House suggest that Ms. Clinton was other than an integral, if not central, figure in their organization from the start, and deserving of a lionesses share of credit for their success. Whatever one might think of “co-Presidents”, the term doesn’t fit DeLong’s suggestion that the healthcare fiasco was the “only major administrative job she has ever tried to do”.

This isn’t to say she didn’t fall on her face, but rather that she fell victim to the same problems that undermined Carter’s administration in her failure to account for the quirks, ways, and means of beltway culture with similar results (as a former staffer she should have known better… Reagan in 1980, anyone?) Political miscalculation isn’t evidence of poor administrative ability, just excess hubris, and considering that the Clintons brought in Dick Morris (hardly a Trotskyite) later, it seems safe to say that they learned from their early mistakes (at least in part). If we take at face value the claims that she was a principal on “damage control” later, and consider how regularly that administration was able to spin its way out of trouble that would (and did) sink other administrations, their record of near escapes should be enough to recommend her skills as a political operator.

Then consider that McAuliffe is by most accounts her guy at the DNC (lucky for the Clintons Ron Browns plane crashed), and that they’ve remade the national committee into a veritable Rodham love-fest. Consider that her NY run sucked enough talent from Gore’s campaign to make his race close enough to lose. Or her committee selections in terms of the bull-moose Democrats she and her staff would have the opportunity to win over. And so on… nothing she’s done suggests a poorly conceived or managed strategy, and considering her experience winning against the handicappers in NYS, her organizations faith that she’d be able to repeat her success in New York on a national level isn’t completely without merit.

Regardless, she certainly DOES have the managerial skills, the political smarts, and the ability to at least mouth the populist rhetoric of the moment to be a viable candidate… policy “smarts” is only important to those with the “pollster smarts” to win elections. Would she make a good President? She ALREADY WAS “co-President”! I’d suggest that a hypothetical Rodham Administration wouldn’t be substantively different in its policy goals than the Clinton Administration.

Posted by: A Crawford on June 10, 2003 11:22 PM

There is something pathetic about the way who ussually wouldn't give Delong's substantive arguments the time of the day are singing hosannas of praise when he posts a diss of HRC. It confirms my suspicion tha the *only* thing that counts for these people is whether you're willing to say nasty things about the Clintons and Gore. If you say bad things about the Clintons and Gore, then you join the Instachildrens' select group of "LIBERALS I CAN AT LEAST RESPECT". If you make absolutely sure to say nothing in praise of Clinton or Gore, then you make their list of "LIBERALS I CAN AT LEAST TOLERATE". If you make a habit of praising Clinton or Gore (not just praising their policies. praising the actual people) then you become part of "THE DELUSIONAL, EXTREME LEFT WHOSE DELUSIONAL BELIEFS ARE JUST SO . . .DELUSIONAL. BOY, THEY SO CRAZY. AND THEY HATE AMERICA. AND THEY LOVE SADDAM". I don't think the acceptance of these people has anything to do ideology. It has to do with the willingness to say nasty things about Clinton-Gore, and at all costs to refrain from defending Clinton-Gore with any passion or intensity.

In any case, the substance of Delong's criticism of HRC:

1) she refused to modify the plan substantively to deal with moral hazard and adverse selection problems, or even acknowledge these problems, either because she was not capable of grasping the concepts (unlikely), or because she pettily perceived the economists as the "enemy" and so was unwilling to grant their objections any validity.

(BTW, do only I see the absurdity of George W Bush acolytes enthusiastically endorsing a criticism of HRC that she did not rectify substantive problems of adverse selection, and that she failed to realize the CBO would score her plan in an negative way?)

2) Instead of reaching out to critics like Breaux, Cooper, Moynihan and Reischauer, and dealing with their concerncs, she told them to show some party loyalty and support the President, or take a hike.

In terms of substance, I think the ultimate questions is "Given all its flaws, did the Clinton plan represent an improvement over the status quo, *CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT ANY OBVIOUS, GLARING PROBLEMS OF THE CLINTON PLAN COULD HAVE BEEN RELATIVELY EASILY RECTIFIED IN THE ENSUING YEARS*?" I think it pretty clearly did represent such an improvement. The flaws of the intial health care bill were no more a reason to vote against health care reform than the flaws of the initial welfare reform bill were a reason to vote against welfare reform. It is very hard to make the argument that we would have a worse health care system today if the Clinton plan, warts and all, had passed in 1994. Perhaps it was not as good a plan as it should have been, but surely the same is true of the '93 budget plan, or any other piece of legislation.

That brings us to the reason the plan didn't pass. This is where I part company with Prof. Delong. Th basic principle is simple: when you're a member of the majority party which controls all three branches, if you commit to voting the party line, even if you have serious reservations, then you get a major voice in shaping the substance of the party agenda. If you make your vote conditional on getting your own way, and go running to the media to criticize the President at the drop of a hat, then you should not expect as much influence as those who bite their tongue and vote the party line.

This sounds cynical and Machevellian, but I don't mean it that way. I'm actually very contemptous of the way the "moderate" Democrats conducted themselves in the years 93-94, and wrote an intemperate rant on the subject a little while ago:

"The failure of the Clinton plan had vey little to do with what the voters did or did not want, or with its substance. The Clinton plan had very real drawbacks, but those could have been corrected over time, and the passage of the plan would have represented a definite improvement over the staus quo.

Though Bill Clinton had mildly negative approval ratings, Bill Kristol found the fundamental fact of the poltics of health care: thought voters were dissatisfied with Clinton's presidency, they fundamentally still liked Clinton and *wanted* him to succeed, *wanted* to give him credit for achieving universal health care for them. Therefore, passage of a health care bill would be an almost unalloyed triumph for Clinton, and would have almost no political benefits for the Republicans. Fair enough: though Bob Michel and Bob Dole were surely decent men, one could hardly expect them to commit poltical hara-kiri and support the President's plan. So any sensible person should have realized that any health care bill would have to pass without any Republican support, and therefore as part of the filibuster-proof budget legislation.

This is where the narcisissm, arrogance, and myopic stupidity of the so-called "moderate" Democrats comes into it. Flattered and cosseted by a Washington establishment which hails centrism and bipartisan compromise as the greatest good, disliked the Clintons (and consequently promoted pseudoscandals like Whitewater), and is always ready praise its own high-minded virtue while selling out to the highest bidder (the insurance companies funding the "Harry and Louise" ads, in this case), these "moderates" drank the Beltway koolaid and made a massive political miscalculation. They made a decision to "distance" themselves from Clinton, and refused to vote for the President's plan, or indeed any plan which achieved universal health care.

Their behavior surely must have struck most voters as odd. After all, universal health care was one the more popular planks of Bill Clinton's campaign and if you didn't support the Democratic president on such a basic point, why the hell were you running as a Democrat? If you thought the plan endorsed by Tom Foley and George Mitchell was so terrible, why on earth were you voting for them as Speaker and Majority Leader? Just two years ago, you were praising Clinton to the skies, now you're running him down? Screw the lot of you, I'm going Republican. These moderates thought they were demonstrating "centrist independence" and "pragmatic bipartisan moderation", but the voters just saw chaos, dysfunction, whining, buck-passing, irresponsibility and above all, ineffectiveness.

By dissing Clinton, refusing to be photographed with him, and making loud public oaths of their anti-Clinton record and dislike of bureaucratic, socialized medicine, these so-called moderate and conservative Democrats though they could do to Bill Clinton what they did to Jimmy Carter - i.e. destroy his Presidency while protecting their comfortable Congressional perches. They were wrong. They paid the ultimate (political) price. And like the Texans who deserted the Alamo, nobody will remember their names."

Sorry for the length. I'll just say that the best analysis of the politics and substance of the health care debacle was a brief, lively article in the Spring 1995 issue of Health Affairs, written by James J Morgan, called "The Anatomy and Physiology of Health Reform's Failure". Everyone interested in the health care debate shoud read it.

Posted by: roublen vesseau on June 11, 2003 02:19 AM

Thanks Dean for hitting on Lincoln being an absolute failure in business, but being a very good politician.

Here are my reasons why people who fail in business make good leaders. First of all, they had the cajones to try and start a business. Even in America it takes a brass set to do it.

Secondly, even after they fail, they are willing to get back on that horse. You learn more from failing than from succeeding, if you are willing to learn.

Third, they realize that they can make mistakes and have learned to rely on people with more knowledge in their areas, at least if they are willing to learn.

Posted by: James Stephenson on June 11, 2003 07:28 AM

Count me amoung the people surpised that Limbaughites would sign on to a critique of Hillary (ok, strike that - they will sign on, sight unseen, to ANY critique of Hillary...) that faults her for not being able to pass the health care bill, a bill which Prof. Delong heartily approved of and Limbaughites considered to be tantamount to a Bolshevic revolution. Seems to me that they should be thanking her...

Posted by: jimbo on June 11, 2003 08:56 AM

BDJ:

There is no way to stop HRC. She may be Gephardt's VP for 2004 (to 2012) and then the presidency with another woman or minority as VP (someone like the current female gov. of Kansas; sorry forgot name) or Richardson from NM.

No one can stop Clinton. Why? The press likes her. It sells copies. There are too many cheer leaders in the nation. And, Clinton and her husband have prevented any other woman from rising to the top.

Think: There are about a 1 million white women in NY who are a million times more accomplished and smarter than HRC. But, they have no office. No husband or cheer leaders to them a senate seat.

What a country? It is democracy but only for the well connected...

Ali Karim Bey

Posted by: Ali Karim Bey on June 11, 2003 09:38 AM

A computer scolded me: "See, If you refuse to admit a simple mistake like this, how can you say that your opinion on anything ought to be trusted?"

If I admit my mistake now ("Indeed, I did hit post an improper 4 times on that computer"), can I be trusted? But, remember this is after I went on national TV, waving my finger, and saying "I did not post 4 times on that computer, Ms. Dell." Am I trustworthy to opine on economic issues then? How about if I am then disbarred by my home state and the US Supreme Court, and found in contempt by the US DC judge appointed by a President in my own party for lying under oath? Then, can I be trusted to give an opinion?

KJ

Posted by: KJ on June 11, 2003 10:40 AM

Funny, live and learn. I thought this discussion regarded HRC, the failure of Hillarycare, and Mr. DeLong's opinion that Mrs. Clinton would make an abysmal president (did I miss something?). And I agreed, perhaps arriving at it from a different direction, but then that's the point of a comments section, no? My remarks were intemperate or personal? Let's try another tact--perhaps HRC wasn't the problem with universal healthcare, and that she is as brilliant as her fans say she is, but the problem is that universal healthcare either, 1)doesn't work, or 2)cannot find a political majority. The problem is the message, not the messenger. Note to achilles: I never mentioned the Rose law firm, and I missed the rule about not disagreeing with the opinions of the host--that's what makes for an echo chamber.

Posted by: Forbes Tuttle on June 11, 2003 03:01 PM

Forbes, you were the one who came in here and immediately made sweeping statements about how all lefties thought 'Hillarycare' was great which I found amusing since the thread was started by a lefty disagreeing with Hillary.

That tactic will get a response from hot-head nobodies like me but that does not mean you can't disagree with the host here. From my medium-term experience with the site, there are plenty of people who disagree with BDL here.

You just happened to come in and start posting sweeping indictments of liberal strawmen (the HRC post and later on a similarly sweeping but pointless accusation about how liberals did not know when the stock market reached its peak) on a day when there were a few other Limbaugh worshippers doing the same, which I presume is why your posts got killed by BDL. I can't speak for our host, but given your last post, which seemed to indicate you were not one of the dittoheads I doubt you will be deleted again.

By the way your (now deleted) post did reference law firm records; if you are claiming that you were referencing Whitewater instead of the Rose Law Firm doesn't lead me to retract much of my response.

Posted by: achilles on June 11, 2003 05:12 PM

achilles eschews abandoning his shovel:

" And given that your dictionary seems to define Republican politicians as invariably not being self-absorbed and Democratic politicians as being invariably self-absorbed (unless they were trying to sleep with young women), there really is not much point in carrying on this conversation."

I told you exactly the opposite of this. Do you bother to think for even a nanosecond about what you say in response to me?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 11, 2003 06:06 PM

Please Patrick, spare me. You described Republican politicans propensity to be self-absorbed/self-indulgent in your post thus:

"Neither attribute can be ascribed to Nixon, Reagan, or GHW Bush. They were merely well-focused individuals."

If that is not a clear statement of your belief that Republicans are not self-absorbed but merely 'focused' I don't know what is.

Let me state my objection again: as long as you believe that Richard Milhous Nixon was not an egomaniac but merely a focused individual, I feel that further rational discussion is pointless.

Posted by: achilles on June 11, 2003 06:45 PM

achilles, put both feet on the floor, and read carefully what I previously wrote for you:

"Almost all (successful) politicians are anything but self-absorbed. Getting elected requires telling voters what THEY want to hear, not what you want to tell them. It's a form of seduction, and Bill Clinton was particulary good at it--for obvious reasons going back to the back seat of his mother's Chevrolet, probably."

"all (successful) politicians" includes Democrats. And I even illustrated the point with one Dem--Bill Clinton. To steal a phrase from John Kenneth Galbraith, only the willfully obtuse could have missed my point.

And just so you don't petulantly whine once more about my not including "well-focused" Democrats, they include such as LBJ, Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle, Al Sharpton, John Edwards, Diane Feinstein, and others too numerous to mention.

That someone can be an egomaniac (LBJ), paranoid (Nixon), a movie star (you know who), a devious jerk (Daschle and Sharpton), hypocritical (wealthy trial lawyer Edwards), does not mean they can't ALSO be well-focused individuals.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 12, 2003 08:43 AM

Oh, my feet are well-grounded, thank you very much. The discussion was never about who was or was not "well-focused", it was about who was or was not self-absorbed.

If you are no longer denying that Nixon was a self-absorbed egomaniac - although you couldn't quite bring yourself to say that he was an egomaniac - then you and I have no disagreement.

Nice try, though to twist my words around to say that I was "petulantly whin[ing] once more about [your] not including "well-focused" Democrats". Nope sorry, once again for a guy who spends an awful lot of time railing about other peoples reading comprehension skills you display precious little yourself (and I won't even get into the multiplication skills you display in calling out others math skills).

I was only quarreling with the statement "Neither attribute [being self-indulgent and being self-absorbed] can be ascribed to Nixon, Reagan, or GHW Bush. They were merely well-focused individuals.", which was and still remains as funny a statement I have read in a long time.

Oh, and in case you still don't get it the humor does not lie in your claim that these people were focused, it lies in your claim that they were not self-absorbed.

Cheers!

Posted by: achilles on June 12, 2003 09:24 AM

Avoiding the Paddywaggon here, I think one response to Brad's criticism of Hillary (which seems borne out by fact) is that her executive approach was completely unsuited to a brief that involved facing off against one of the best-funded and most toxic lobby groups in America. That is, the lobby which would like to keep poor sick Americans either poor or sick. Dealing with that behemoth requires either a subtlety and 'triangulation', or an utter contempt backed with wide support, that I doubt even Clinton, W. J. could have handled.

As for Krugman: the 'shrill' epithet was applied to Juvenal too. And to the writer of the 'Junius' letters.

Posted by: nick sweeney on June 12, 2003 10:06 AM

As I read it Brad thinks Hilary showed too many political weaknesses in handling the health care legislation to be considered competent to be President.

It seems to me the main reason health care went down to defeat was that the insurance companies jumped on it with a mendacious television advertising, and other, propaganda campaigns. The insurance companies' expenditures were in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And since they were obviously non-political, of course they were not subject to campaign finance laws of any kind.

Hillary's supposed political weakness, then, is simply the measure of money's political strength.

That Democratic conservatives did not support her, that the public support she looked to for a wave to surf to shore instead ebbed away -- these are what media operators are paid to arrange.

Since America's waste on health care -- not the 10% of GDP that goes to medicine, but the 5% that goes to the insurance companies -- is put in play every time health care is mentioned, we now know that unlimited insurance company money will be brought to bear against anybody, of whatever level of skill, who goes after the problem seriously.

It seems to me there are only two ways America is going to get decent health insurance -- and that is the only question. Insured Americans have fine health care.

The first possibility is that the insurance insustry's boy toy Joe Lieberman might get elected, and then pull a Nixon-in-China on the Hartford gangs.

The other possibility is that somebody might stop talking to the public about health care and go to bat on the real issue: It's the insurance companies, stupid.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on June 12, 2003 10:06 AM

Well, I'll make a final comment to rectify what I meant and what I said. Regarding HRC's healthcare plan failure, I mentioned that her prior experience was as a lawyer at a Little Rock law firm. I never mentioned the name of the firm, or any reference to billing records, as those issues are not germaine. My point was that she had little experience relevent to the size and scope of the mission. In hindsight, you could conclude that she failed, hence she's a failure and not suited to be "anywhere near the White House," as Mr. DeLong stated. His larger point was that the Economist column was "inside baseball" and not useful to the typical reader/voter. There are other conclusions worth considering, e.g. legislating socialized healthcare may well be impossible, for a number of reasons, and it was the task that was a failure, not her!(Why this is dismissed as a straw man argument eludes me.) The 70 or so comments ahead of my initial post didn't seem to want to consider this possibility. I think there's a lesson for the left in this debate, if what the left is trying to accomplish is access to healthcare, rather than socialized healthcare. We provide food stamps to the poor--if that doesn't work smoothly should we nationalize grocery stores? We provide subsidized housing via Sec. 8 and other programs--should we nationalize housing, instead? Dismiss me as simplistic, but don't assume I'm a dittohead. Access and portability would be vastly improved, by the simple change of the tax law--remove the expense deduction from the employer and give it to the employee/taxpayer. Why should my healthcare coverage be tied to my employment? Why do we need thousands of pages of legislation, followed by tens of thousands of pages of regulations to change this. While access and portability affects all of us at one time or another, it really affects a small proportion at any one time, and therefore is an unlikely priority issue around which a majority rallies. Disagree with me, if you will, but failure to consider the perspective is likely a mistake. Finally, the market observation (in the 2nd deleted post) I made was directed at those I called "economy/stock market pundits." While that qualified as discussion drift, I don't know how anyone thought it was offensive. Ce la vie.

Posted by: Forbes Tuttle on June 12, 2003 04:31 PM

Forbes, I don't think anyone is calling you a dittohead (certainly I am not) anymore.

I just pointed out that the reason your posts got deleted was most likely was the appearance of a fair number of pretty vulgar comments from apparent dittoheads involving sex acts between Bill and Monica. While things can get heated on this blog, vulgarity is very rare, I presume that the host went through and deleted all the posts that were from people who don't traditionally post here. But again, I have no first-hand knoledge since I myself don't know Brad at all.

I'm also not sure still where the original "all you liberals want socialized healthcare" claim from. At the time you posted your comment there were people who defended HRC, there were others who defended social security and medicare, but there was hardly a groundswell, in fact I am not sure there was anyone at all (I just glanced through the posts again) saying that we should have 'socialized healthcare'. So when you made a dramatic appearance on the scene ranting about liberals who wanted socialized healthcare you sure quacked like a dittohead at the time to me, and probably seemed that way to Brad and got caught up in the sweep.

Your last two posts have been far more reasoned and thoughtful than your first two posts. I wish your original post were still around, just so that one can compare and contrast with the more recent ones to see exactly how different the tone and logic really was.

Cheers.

Posted by: achilles on June 12, 2003 07:38 PM

Achilles: I appreciate the response. I've had a very mixed reaction on many of these blogs, as I've thought my comments were clearly in the realm, as discussions go. My practice has always been to repond to the discussion, and not to anyone in particular--inasmuch as many posts become personally directed. All the best.

Posted by: Forbes Tutttle on June 13, 2003 12:25 AM

Hillary who?

Posted by: Diana on June 13, 2003 07:23 AM
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