Work and Days

The Campaign

The Fights Continue…

Democratic

The Cry

Hillary’s cry was perfect. She previewed it by talking about the unfairness accorded women who tear up; she post-viewed it by announcing she’d found her “voice”. And in Act III the moist cheek worked beautifully— a tin man’s half tear, not a cowardly lion’s deluge.

But it isn’t over till it’s over. And her problem remains that Obama is a far better speaker, maybe brighter as well, surely more charismatic who in brilliant fashion taps into all the reservoirs of liberal anti-Clintonism. And he doesn’t have to go negative to the degree she does.

True, Bill will do his dadburn negative part. But he’s so narcissistic that his stump speeches usually end in angry riffs on himself. They’d be better to confine him to a boardroom rolodex, and let him work the zillionaires for money in the fashion he did with his library.

Chips and Guacamole

She also comes across as a sort of phony on issues of the poor. When Hillary talked to black workers not long ago she adopted a fake, but condescending ghettoized accent.

And when walking in the barrio of Las Vegas this week, she talked about problems in terms of “one is guacamole and one is chips”—her Mexican restaurant experience apparently, like her push-button fake accent, reflects the degree to which she has communed with the minority poor. And when she said no woman is illegal, it may be true in the liberal humanitarian cosmic sense, but it surely wasn’t for the questioner who has a real problem when his wife didn’t come here legally.

In the general election, neither she nor Obama has worked out the immigration triangulation. Both are for open borders, but will have to nuance that enough to seem palatable to the two-thirds who want them closed right now.

Another Cry?

The 90’s Clinton rat pack will return, but they have a problem with Obama—how to destroy him without appearing racist or condescending, a sort of destroy the village to save it dilemma. So far the answer is to say he’s inexperienced, or glib but not deep, or a fairy tale, tactics very similar to those liberals used to allege right-wingers stooped to when complaining about affirmative action.

Also, you can only cry once. So that shoot-and-scoot rocket is now gone and the launcher can’t be reloaded. It may be enough for Hillary to remember the voice coaching: speak more slowly, pause a lot, bite your lip occasionally, look earnest, tragic, and conflicted, and avoid at all costs both the canned hardy ha ha laugh, and especially the screech owl shrieks of anger when talking about right-wingers or George Bush.

The point is to present the reluctant Hillary who braved all this for us, not the pushy college coed screaming about saving the world. I’d say that she will follow the script pretty well, especially because she only gets a pass in this campaign for 1-2 of her Al Gore outbursts. The clips of those lose her voters every time they’re replayed.

Bill Again

I’ve ad nauseam suggested that it is problematic whether Bill Clinton really wants her to win: on the yes side, four, maybe eight years of him jetting around, solving world problems, hogging the lime-lite, center-staging again in the world. On the no to her presidency side: his personal life at least wont’ be center-stage, Hillary won’t need him anymore and might cut him loose and he’ll be freer to do what he has done. And, remember, he then remains the only Clinton and thus won’t have to worry about asterisks about the saner Clinton who was the first woman president and avoided impeachment. A toss-up, hence the schizophrenia of seeing him labor hard on the trail for her, while seemingly offering up the most asinine, distracting, and counterproductive speeches

Edwards

I think Edwards is getting tired of the new personna. He is a very glib and smart guy, so hides it well. But in the end he doesn’t seem comfortable with his false-populist role. It means constant blue-jeanning and talking up his mill roots, when his natural inclination is to go into his mansion and hit one of the fifty remotes, or get back into the tie and suit circuit, or hang with guys in the hedge-funds or big law firms, or pick up 20K here, 40K there for giving a speech. A guy who has those multi-hundred dollar haircuts simply can’t plop down like most into a barber’s waiting chair, pay $15, listen to gossip, and get out with a good enough lopsided cut.

His accent is the antithesis of Thompson’s: listen to the latter and you immediately recall the charm of the Old South, listen to the former and you, well, nearly recoil. Populism also requires a certain appearance of cragginess to it, some evidence of wear and tear, a certain naturalness. Huckabee can pull it off, McCain too. Thompson even.

But Edwards looks perennially happy to be suddenly rich, preppy and, to be candid, ridiculous—no one imagines anyone in his physical landscape venturing very far out of it other than to find status and power through winning an election.

And no one believes that trial—especially personal injury—lawyers in mansions are populists. I’ve dealt with a few the last thirty years, and, to indulge in stereotypes, they are the most cynical in the world—fine to have a cigar and drink with, and entertain you with stories of courtroom antics, but their business precludes taking ideology very seriously, since the client is always right, especially the one who pays off the most.

I wrote about one I called Hightower once in Fields Without Dreams, whom a few of us broke farmers hired (money upfront) to sue Sun-Maid to recapture our lost capital retain expropriated by the near bankrupt cooperative. At the negotiation hearing, the discussions transcended cynicism.

His flights down to Fresno were hilarious. He would ask me on the way from the airport to prep him on pruning shears, what a raisin bin was, and the nature of capital retain (his meter was on, so I guess he was charging $200 an hour at that point) then, presto, morph inside the court-room into American Gothic. Very good too, especially the references to the blue-jeaned toiler of the soil. But for all his flair and big name, he was no match for the local Fresno boys, who chewed him up.

We tired of him as much as the coop’s lawyers, and when it was all said and done he took his tens of thousands in fees, settled for us for 11 cents on our lost dollar, and got out of town fast. My last, but favorite airport remembrance was his final complaint at 5PM after missing a flight and being stuck at the FAT until 9, “So, what am I supposed to do in this town for the next f—ing four hours.” I left him at the ticket counter, suggested a nighttime trip to the zoo (great zoo too), and left. I never saw him again, but heard he dropped dead in the prime of a very eventful life.

Note in passing that Edward’s wife has already commented on the fact that poor John is only a white male, while Clinton said poor Hillary can’t be male or taller, so you get the drift: Obama is the cookie-cutter affirmative action dream candidate, and these white liberal elites are fearful of being hoisted on their own petards.


Republican

Conservative fides

McCain has developed a successful short-term strategy of deflecting conservative attacks on his tax, immigration, campaign finance reform, etc. record, by showing just enough anger, and just enough reminder of his courageous past, to silence critics. But eventually he should sit down with a conservative voice, a Limbaugh or Hannity type, and discuss and defend his positions. I think he would do quite well, and prepare the way to unite the party should he win the nomination. Better now than later, since he needs the base as much as independents to win the nomination and the general.

The Pack

Thompson is doing much better, but may be, in the mind of his own supporters, too little and too late. He is certainly the most charming of the candidates, and brings a certain stature to the race. The more he dismisses the obnoxious interviewer, the better he does. He’s starting to replay his Law and Order character and that helps a lot. I had a breakfast with him this summer; he was reflective, honest, and had a good appraisal of the field and the issues.

Romney looked good early on, but he’s not cut out to be an attack dog. It’s not his nature, and it comes across as the first-row guy (I was once a professor for 21 years) in the class always answering the questions, offering up facts, and unintentionally dismissively referring to the less bright behind him. When Romney is attacked he defends himself well, and gains sympathy as a good counter-puncher. He’s the most prepared of all the candidates, but needs to relax and seem less scripted. I also had breakfast with him once, and found him energetic, impressive, sincere, and incredibly prepared and informed.

I was talking to a lot of Giuliani supporters and they are baffled by his rope-a-dope strategy of being either forgotten or beaten up early on, and then coming in with a haymaker in Florida, New York, California or New Jersey. It may work, but voters have a brief attention span, and their desire to be associated with a perceived winner often trumps principles and devotion. His strength is a natural intelligence and a quick repartee; he rarely makes mistakes and is brilliant in the impromptu.

Huckabee is a delightful guy, witty, honest, charismatic—but he knows almost nothing about foreign policy, far less than candidates Bill Clinton, George Bush, or Jimmy Carter did. His position paper in Foreign Affairs was embarrassing, and his remarks off the cuff so far have confirmed that picture. He’s waging a sort of William Jennings Bryan campaign lite, heavy on the religion, heavy on the populism, and soft around the edges on taxes, government, war, etc. Calling Bush’s team “arrogant” and the US misguided in its policies provides some leftish cover to talk about Jesus more.

St. Paul

Even mentioning Ron Paul translates into several hate letters, as I can attest from the response to even tangential references. In any case, I’ve been watching Ron Paul’s strange defense of these 1970s-1990s newsletters that in some detail (I read a few) refer to his own past and employ the first-person pronoun, interspliced with what could fairly be called out-of-the-mainstream observations on race and culture.

He says, although his name was on much of the literature, that he didn’t write these papers or even read them—before going on the attack against those who raise the issue. I can’t recall a similar defense by anyone, especially given the first-person pronoun usage. It depends on the meaning of “I”?

Of course, the major media is trying to discredit him, but no more so than they do others. His apologia is farfetched (I remember his Barbara Jordan controversy), and this is important, since his appeal to his supporters thus far is his blunt candor. But if he can’t honestly say, “Yes, I probably either wrote, edited, or read that stuff with my byline, but it was a long, long time ago, and it doesn’t reflect my current views and I am sorry to those who took offense,” then he devolves into just another candidate. He’d be wise to let the Reason magazine apologists take over his defense.