Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Campaign Trail Report

While traveling during the past week, I visited a longtime friend who recently met Hillary Clinton. The event was private and exclusive -- only a few dozen business leaders attended, along with some spouses. Hillary spoke, took questions, then met with everyone personally.

During the Q & A session, the executives asked her some complex questions about technology, international trade, globalization, etc. My friend said her responses were in-depth and extremely intelligent. He was also impressed by the personal interest she took in everyone during the meet and greet session; she spent a few minutes speaking with each person individually, frequently asking questions that indicated she both listened to and thought about their comments.

According to my friend, a political independent who has never been particularly fond of Hillary, she was a huge hit. He went home ready to vote for her, and he sensed others in the audience felt the same way. His exclamation "She's smart!" might show how low expectations have fallen during the past six years, but it's also a pithy indication that mindless single-issue swagger -- on display during parts of the recent Republican candidate debates, unfortunately -- may be decidedly unfashionable in 2008.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why I think she can win. Mind you, I am not sure of whom I will support just yet, but I had the opportunity to meet her in New York 5 years ago, and she was very nice, and interested in what I had to say.

As a 23 year old at the time, simply to have a U.S. Senator express an interest in my thoughts about AmeriCorps (I was an AmeriCorps member at the time) was shocking.

I had already met Senator John Kerry, and he attempted to be one of the boys, asking me about the Red Sox game. Too bad for him, I'm a Yankees fan, so I actually said, "I don't know, Senator, but I hope they lose tonight."

Anyway, I digress. Hillary's a real human being, one that takes the time to listen to what you have to say, and responds to it without resorting to canned answers.

Wouldn't it be nice to have someone like that back in the White House?

5/16/2007 9:00 AM  
Blogger jalexei said...

A co-worker of mine has a family connection that is involved (at a fairly high level) in NY state politics. A staunch Republican, he echoes the comments of your friend - I get the sense it pains him to admit it, but he apparently has tremendous respect for her.

It will be interesting to see how her campaign manages (or not) to portray this to the general public. Even I, a proud Democrat, find her cautious and seemingly over-scripted appearances somewhat off-putting.

5/16/2007 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That she's extremely intelligent should be obvious. What bothers people (including me) about her is her naked ambition. She seems to be utterly unwilling to say anything that isn't scripted and focus group tested. Not that that makes her different from any other candidate. I'd vote for her.

5/16/2007 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The common criticism of Hillary Clinton: "What bothers people (including me) about her is her naked ambition."

Like most myths perpetrated over the last 14 years, Senator Clinton's naked ambition is largely a product of the Republican smear machine, and - let's be honest - male chauvinism. I mean, any woman who aspires to be a senator of New York AND, God forbid, the President of the United States can't be interested in public service. There must be ulterior motives.

Take Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example. Here's a guy loaded with ambition. Ambition literally leaks out the man's pores. Yet I don't hear anyone criticizing him for it.

HINT TO THE WISE: ALL presidential candidates are remarkably ambitious people, whether you're male or female, black or white, Republican or Democrat. Just to seriously consider running for the most powerful office in the land, not to the mention the rest of the planet, and feel that your ideas, leadership, and skills are up to the task is unquestionably ambitious by its very defintion.

5/16/2007 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Gus, I don't mean to be snarky, but I have to say that your comments about Hillary seem very scripted to me. The notion that Senator Clinton is scripted and focus-group oriented has long been a talking point of the GOP (and the mainstream media, which prefers scripted narratives based on trivialities to actual reporting about the candidates and issues). It is almost as far from the truth as the idea that Clinton is liberal. The truth is that Clinton is a hawkish, centrist, DLC Democrat. She could, for example, have pandered to the Dem base by simply apologizing for her Iraq War resolution vote, but she hasn't done so because she doesn't believe it was wrong. (Needless to say, I don't agree with her.) Does that seem focus-group-tested to you?

Unlike Senator Clinton, I am a liberal Democrat. I respect her lifelong commitment to public service, her intelligence, and her efforts to reach out to people who don't necessarily share her worldview. I think she has gotten quite a raw deal from the media and been subjected to reprehensible, sexist, ad hominem attacks from the right (and sometimes from the left as well). If she wins the nomination, I'll vote for her. But I am not rooting for her to win the nomination.

5/16/2007 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She has certainly been demonized and that is a failing of the press... but she is also a hawk in a world that doesn't need more hawks.

She had access to deeper information about W's invasion and could have pushed for more. She didn't. I have no respect for members of the spineless branch of the Democratic Party.

I won't vote for her ... I'm a liberal who doesn't believe in war.

5/16/2007 2:12 PM  
Blogger Jimmy the Saint said...

CR brings up an interesting point. The same thing could be said about the Commander Guy I am sure. In private, he probably is a swell guy and all. Speaking in front of big crowds, they both aren't so hot. The problem with Hillary is that she doesn't lead.

5/16/2007 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what Jimmy the saint means when he says Hillary doesn't lead. And I wouldn't say that her session with a bunch of executives says anything about how she is "in private" -- that was a campaign event if ever there was one. I'm sure some would say that GWB is a swell guy in private, but I don't know that anyone (other than Condi Rice) would praise his intelligence and grasp of the issues, or his willingness to deal with people who might not agree with him.

Like I said, I'm certainly not her biggest supporter -- in fact, I find her positions on many issues to be frustratingly conservative -- but I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton. It seems to me that in the past 20 or so years we've lost the capacity to disagree with public figures without heaping contempt on them. I tend to attribute this to the slash-and-burn partisan politics of the modern GOP . . . but then again, like I said, I'm a liberal Democrat.

5/16/2007 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several years ago, Brad DeLong wrote:

"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."

That worries me.


5/16/2007 7:53 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

To Anon (Jake B):
14 yrs ago!!! The Healthcare job was 16 yrs before should would be inaugurated if she wins in 2008. Look back at what other presidents were doing 16 yrs before their inaugurations.

Dubya was mismanaging a baseball team. Truman was a political hack and clothier in a small town in MO. JFK was a mere kid just back from a war.

If Hillary is anything she is intelligent. I would think she has learned something from her husband's presidency and her Senatorial service.

She and Bill have both gone on at length in their memoirs about what a debacle the health care reform task force was, and I would think they both learned from that mistake.

This is in contradistinction to the current administration that makes one mistake after another and learns nothing.

5/16/2007 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't disagree about where she stands on the political spectrum, and maybe I have been buying into the media's and Republican spin machine's talking points. I see her refusal to apologize for voting for the war as a refusal to admit she's wrong. Can't appear to be a flip flopper. I'm not rooting for her to win the nomination either. She's not liberal enough for me.

5/17/2007 8:39 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

I find it odd to find myself defending Hillary Clinton-- she's not my first choice, but in the grand scheme of presidential politics, she's be better than most previous presidents.

"Voting for the war" is pure BS and avowed anti-war folks need to understand this nuance. The "Force resolution" in 2002 was a stance taken to get the nascent inspection regime back on track after admittedly laying fallow for a couple years. The fact that the people had chosen an inept and blood-thirsty Commander in Chief is another point.

I thought Bill Clinton was a fine president, and I would expect his wife to show similarly good judgment. Liberal and conservative labels are becoming meaningless and counter-productive.

5/17/2007 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one who voted for the PATRIOT Act can be trusted with the metastasizing power of the White House. Don't care that they didn't read it first. This is one issue that rolls up all the rest.

5/18/2007 10:05 AM  

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