Cheat-Seeking Missles

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary's Weak Announcement

"I'm in." It is perhaps the most self-aggrandizing presidential campaign announcement ever made -- but Hillary likes it so much that it banners over her campaign web site as if it were brilliant.

The speechwriter in me recoils from "I'm in" as if it were a coiled rattlesnake ... or a particularly smelly pile of poo.

There can be no more clear statement about what this campaign is all about than that it started with the word "I." Campaigns should be about we, about America. I'm not a babe in the woods; I know they're not -- but they're supposed to be, so most self-aggrandizing politicians are smart enough not to put themselves first in their campaign announcement.

(Granted, Joe Biden could be worse. Had this been his campaign launch, he would have said "Joe Biden's in.")

"I'm in" also supposes yesterday's announcement was a surprise. It was not. We've all known since -- when? 1999? -- that she would be declaring sometime in early 2007. Despite all her coy answers, there never was a doubt that her national "conversation" regarding her potential candidacy was one-sided. She'd made up her mind and the vaults-full of money she collected just cemented her conviction.

Hillary does have astounding delivery, though, almost as good as Bill's. Go to her site and watch the video. It's almost as if you were watching Oprah or The View. She's relaxed, comfortable, and she's managed to discipline her nasal whine and sound warmer, less shrill.

Substance? That's another story.

This is not a platform statement or an issue paper; it's an announcement. It includes lists, not ideas: health care, abortion rights, stopping the war in Iraq, environmentalism, Social Security, Medicare. No plans are given, nor are there discussions of why or why not these things should be accomplished.

On the video, she says she wants to talk with us about these things. Really? I thought her mind was pretty much made up, as evidenced by 16 years of state and national first ladyhood and six years in the Senate.

The stand-out line of all is this one:
I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America, where I learned that we could overcome every obstacle we face if we work together and stay true to our values.
The values in her home were, of course, conservative Republican -- values she since has most definitely not stayed true to, so I wonder if she feels she still can overcome obstacles, what with her new values and all.

Her home town of Park Ridge, IL, is not exactly middle class. Here's how it stacks up to the rest of Illinois, according to City Data:
  • Median household income above state average.
  • Median house value significantly above state average.
  • Unemployed percentage significantly below state average.
  • Black race population percentage significantly below state average.
  • Median age above state average.
  • Foreign-born population percentage significantly above state average.
  • Renting percentage significantly below state average.
  • Length of stay since moving in above state average.
  • House age above state average.
  • Percentage of population with a bachelor's degree or higher above state average.
Daddy's job -- an executive with a textile firm -- might have been middle class, but in a country club, send the daughter to Wellesley and Yale kind of way, not a Joe the Plumber and community college kind of way. Daddy's Goldwater Republican politics also go unmentioned in this pretty little picture.

That politicians lie about their past is nothing new, but the Clintons have always lied a bit more than most. Bill is more forgivable, given that his family's past is remarkable only in its failures and sordidness. Hillary lies even though she doesn't have to. She could use her real past to her advantage, saying she has a unique understanding of Republicans and waving her conversion as a proud banner. But she doesn't trust the American people enough to share her past with them.

Near the end, she states the heart of her political conviction:
The promise of America is that all of us will have access to opportunity, and I want to run a 2008 campaign that renews that promise, a campaign built on a lifetime record of results.
The promise needs no renewal; every single person in America today has access to opportunity, more access to opportunity than anyone else in the world.

Renewal is needed only if "access to opportunity" is changed to "guarntee of opportunity." And that's the foundational plank of ever Hil position paper and policy statement that will follow this campaign announcement: "I'm a Democrat, so I don't think you need to work for it. I think the rich should pay for it and the Democratic congress and president should give it to you and take the credit."

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