Blogs > Cliopatria > Do we need a wily president?

Feb 4, 2008 8:52 pm


Do we need a wily president?



Robert McElvaine’s HNN post this week captures well the political dilemma that faces many Democrats. Barack Obama has the potential to unite some independents, moderates, and liberal Democrats in a way that could both win the election and, potentially, do the country some good. Hillary Clinton has the potential to unite the Republicans, while John McCain attracts independents.

In short, according to McElvaine (and many others), Obama’s the candidate most likely to win for the Democrats. That’s probably true.

So what’s the problem with that? It is not simply Obama’s inexperience. (Honestly, is there any evidence that he would be a less experienced administrator than McCain?) It is that we need a president with some of the darker skills in his portfolio as well as an audacious hopefulness. As Fred Kaplan notes in his new book (excerpted in Slate)”Wily, shrewd, calculating, manipulative . . . are qualities that a world power must occasionally harness in pursuit of its interests.”

Hillary Clinton has those qualities. In fact, as Erica Jong notes, even some of the actions she has received the most heat for have a logical base:

As a senator she has learned compromise and negotiation. She has gotten to know red America as well as blue. . . . She knows this country is full of"security" moms as well as soccer moms. Since she is a woman, she has to show she's ready to be commander in chief. Hence her"triangulation" on Iraq and her signing the absurd Lieberman-Kyl resolution, which calls on our government to use"military instruments" to" combat, contain and [stop]" Iran's meddling in Iraq.

Maybe you buy that, maybe you don’t. But the current president has shown how limited the bull-in-the-china shop approach is. Jimmy Carter’s policy swings remind us that good will alone does not equally good geopolitical thinking. Clinton’s capacity to triangulate, while highly irritating in some contexts, is an essential capacity for a world leader, regardless of her goals.

In short, while Obama would make the better candidate, I think Clinton would be the better foreign policy president. Moreover, his inexperience could be a terrible liability to the nation if it makes his foreign policy decisions indecisive or contrary.

So who will I vote for when the primary circus comes to Wisconsin? I really don’t know. I like Obama's"new math," the way he unites people with a better vision. Clinton does not have that. I want to vote for him in a way that I do not feel for Clinton. I'm just not sure who in three years would be better for the nation, a wily president or a hopeful one.

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E. Simon - 2/6/2008

Jong's piece just shows how slow the blue-state narcissists are to learn. Just because Hillary capitulates on legislation with Republican pols (hint: the latter are still "elites") doesn't mean that the rank-and-file voter on right OR left won't see through that and understand that she stands for nothing. These bloggers will keep neglecting issues of character until the Democrats get tired of losing elections or never consolidating any wins, apparently.

There is a world of difference in keeping the attributes of "(w)ily, shrewd, calculating, manipulative" in one's arsenal and relying on them exclusively to fill the spacious vacuum for other sorts of traits in one's personality. Perhaps the Bush-Clintons who rule this country could be kept in some secret broom closet in the White House - to be broken into and opened in cases of extreme emergency, rather than rotated around as some kind of permanent model for deceiving the public and calling it realism in the art of governing.

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