WaPo: Would We Be Better Off Under President Hillary Clinton?
We knew it was coming, right? The media honeymoon with Barack Obama is over and now they are wondering if THEY (the media) picked the wrong horse in this race. Of course they are pretending that this has nothing to do with them (the media).
Let me start off by answering the question posed in the article and in the title of this post with a clear “yes” but I also want to deconstruct the media narrative, which I don’t trust. I agree with Dana Milbank (see excerpt below) that Hillary would have had a laser-like focus on the economy and jobs, unlike Obama. That said, I simply don’t trust the media’s johnny-come-lately mea culpa/second-guessing. Call me paranoid. Or just call me sick and tired of the mainstream media. Maybe they should have realized that Obama’s lofty, unrealistic rhetoric during the 2008 primaries was just that- lofty, unrealistic rhetoric. Obama did everything but offer us all free ponies.
Here is an excerpt:
As I sat in the East Room last week watching a forlorn President Obama account for his shellacking, I listened with concern as he described the presidency as a “growth process” and suggested that the midterm setback was somehow inevitable. “You know, this is something that I think every president needs to go through,” he said.
It brought to mind Hillary Clinton’s 3 a.m. phone-call ad from the 2008 campaign, and her withering criticism of Obama: “When there is a crisis . . . there’s no time for speeches or on-the-job training.” I wondered whether Democrats would be in the fix they’re in if they had chosen a different standard-bearer.
Would unemployment have been lower under a President Hillary? Would the Democrats have lost fewer seats on Tuesday? It’s impossible to know. But what can be said with confidence is that Clinton’s toolkit is a better match for the current set of national woes than they were for 2008, when her support for the Iraq war dominated the campaign.
Back then, Clinton’s populist appeal to low-income white voters, union members and workers of the Rust Belt was not enough to overcome Obama’s energized youth vote. But Clinton’s working-class whites were the very ones who switched to the Republicans on Tuesday.
Clinton campaign advisers I spoke with say she almost certainly would have pulled the plug on comprehensive health-care reform rather than allow it to monopolize the agenda for 15 months. She would have settled for a few popular items such as children’s coverage and a ban on exclusions for pre-existing conditions. That would have left millions uninsured, but it also would have left Democrats in a stronger political position and given them more strength to focus on job creation and other matters, such as immigration and energy.
The Clinton campaign advisers acknowledge that she probably would have done the auto bailout and other things that got Obama labeled as a socialist. The difference is that she would have coupled that help for big business with more popular benefits for ordinary Americans.
Clinton, for example, first called for a 90-day foreclosure moratorium in December 2007, as part of a package to fight the early stages of the mortgage crisis with a five-year freeze on subprime rates and $30 billion to avoid foreclosures. But an Obama campaign adviser dismissed Clinton’s moratorium, saying it would “reward people for bad behavior.”
Calls for a moratorium returned a few weeks ago with news of lenders’ foreclosure abuses. Polls indicate public support for a moratorium, but Obama ruled it out. It’s a safe bet Clinton would have done otherwise.
Some differences would have been stylistic. As a senator from New York, Clinton had good relations with Wall Street. As the heir to her husband’s donor base, she would have had more executives in government – envoys who would have been able to ease the uncertainty about tax and regulatory policy that has been crippling business.
Most important, there can be little doubt that, whatever policies emerged, she would have maintained a laser focus on the economy; after all, she did that during the 2008 campaign, when it wasn’t as central an issue. She got little credit, for example, when she gave a speech in Iowa in November 2007 warning about the dangers of new financial instruments. Now, it seems prescient; then, it sounded boring.
There was plenty not to like about Clinton’s campaign, particularly her persistence in the race long after she had a chance. Had she beaten Obama, she might have introduced her own problems (a new entanglement with Iran, perhaps?). But a failure to connect with the common man would not have been among them.
Back in April 2008, a Clinton ad delivered a populist blow to Obama: “When the housing crisis broke, Hillary Clinton called for action: a freeze on foreclosures. Barack Obama said ‘no.’ . . . People are hurting. It’s time for a president who’s ready to take action now.”
I agree with Milbank on a lot of points, but notice what he is saying- or inferring- that Hillary Clinton would have, in effect, cozied up with the very Wall Street interests who caused the global financial crisis- how in the world is that helping the little guy/woman? He seems to imply that Hillary would not have challenged Wall Street and thus not dealt with the underlying problem by championing meaningful Wall Street reform. I find that to be contradictory and so typical of the media. Despite some always claiming the media is oh-so-liberal, they are in fact, very pro-corporate.
In my view, what Hillary probably would have done was deal with the economy and Wall Street reform first thing upon taking office- when corporate malfeasance was on every worker’s radar. She wouldn’t have waited two years to start to try to make the case that the average worker got screwed by Wall Street gambling and corporate tax breaks which sent tens of thousands of jobs overseas. She probably would have extended the Bush tax cuts ONLY for the middle class, realizing that to balance the budget, she can’t hand the top 1% 700billion in tax breaks. She’s been consistently very clear that the wealthy need to pay their share. And keep in mind, most top corporations pay ZERO federal income tax, so don’t think that such populist talk is wealth redistribution- it’s not- it’s simply cutting out some of the ridiculous perks that allow the wealthiest people and businesses to pay less income tax than you and I do. You know, as in zero income tax, which is certainly less than what I pay every year.
Hillary may very well have not even attempted health reform until the economy was in better shape- say, in a second term. But the idea that Hillary wouldn’t have done everything possible to prevent another global economic catastrophe, including taking on Wall Street by championing Wall Street reform, which seems to be what Milbank is suggesting? No, I don’t buy that. I do believe that Hillary likely would have done a much better job of taking on Big Business without all the political fall-out. I do believe Hillary would have navigated that minefield in a more adept fashion. Ironically, Obama’s Wall Street reform has so many loop holes that Wall Street has no business complaining. At all. Nick Kristoff has a very good commentary over at the NYT today about the stupidity of extending all of the Bush tax cuts- trickle down economics has NEVER worked.
I think there is little doubt that a Clinton presidency would have had a much better messaging operation. Why on earth do most Americans still think their taxes have been raised when they are actually lower than they have been in decades? Why do Americans think the bank bailouts originated under Obama, when they originated under Bush? Why don’t most Americans know about the successes of this administration in terms of reigning in insurgents in Afghanistan (controversial, yes, but it sure contradicts the notion that Dems are weak on national security)? The DNC and Obama’s political aides should be ashamed. Nothing rivals the GOP/right wing noise machine but it’s like the Democrats didn’t even TRY to get the facts out. The Clintons are much better at messaging. Milbank is in effect saying that Hillary would have been Republican Lite, but I’m not convinced that is the case. If so, I’m not sure how he can write off the potential reaction of the Democratic base- a group that is incredibly crucial in all get out the vote efforts.
So, while I personally think we would be better off under a President Hillary Clinton, I find Milbank to be a bit disingenuous and a tad late in his analysis. Notice that he gets in a little jab in about the primaries and reminds us that he didn’t like how the Clinton campaign conducted itself in the end. Totally unnecessary. Also, I can’t help but notice that when Republicans suffer huge electoral losses the media chalks it up to the politics of personality rather than ideology. I have NEVER heard the media say “these election results indicate the GOP needs to move more to the center or the left.” Yet when Democrats suffer losses, and this was the case during Bill Clinton’s tenure, their immediate response is to opine that the party is too leftist and needs to move to the right.
Don’t take this post as a defense of Barack Obama, it’s not. Instead, it’s a slap at the media for doing everything they could to impugn Hillary Clinton’s campaign as a business-as-usual, dynastic enterprise while propping up Barack Obama. And now they are trying to evade responsibility for that.