Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Unintented Consequences

A political twofer today, as prominent Democrats say and do dumb things.

First off: what in heaven's name were the Clintons thinking? It sounds like their trial of a VP offer to Obama was supposed to sound magnanamous, but in fact it simply comes across as arrogant, even hubristic. The timing is all wrong, and simply gives him a fine excuse to point out (over and over and over on the news) that he's in the lead. Given that she is betting essentially everything on gaining and retaining enough momentum to give her a shot at talking her way into the top spot at the convention, it was foolish -- it only distracts from that momentum. Even worse, it means that any negative campaigning they do simply comes across as hypocritical: if they think he might be good enough for the VP, that's a tacit admission that he *is* good enough to be President.

Okay, looking at it more cagily, I can see what's going on here. It wasn't intended to have anything to do with the voters -- it was entirely played to the super-delegates, trying to convince them that the *best* ticket is Clinton/Obama, in that order. But they really underestimated how connected everything is nowadays, and the inability to pitch something to a targeted audience without side-effects. In practice, by letting this idea be too well-known too early, they've nearly scuttled it -- Obama now *has* to publicly disavow the idea, and the more the idea gets pushed, the harder he's going to have to deny it. Which is a pity, because if I read him right, he's not against the idea in principle. (The wording of his denials so far looks very careful.) But by making the matter public, the Clintons have made it much more difficult.

And then there's the Spitzer thing. Honestly, I feel kind of sorry for him. The public has a bad habit of expecting our politicians to be super-humanly perfect: the fact that people are talking openly about him resigning over a personal impropriety seems like an exaggerated reaction to me. I didn't like it when it happened to Bill Clinton, and I don't like it now. I far prefer the French attitude that a politician's private life is, by and large, private.

That said, he kind of asked for it. Most politicians could ride this out, damaged but still reasonably effective. But Spitzer has built his entire career on a holier-than-thou image, and that set him up for ordinary weakness to look *really* bad. In particular, a man who made a name (in part) busting prostitution rings cannot then go partaking of one.

It's a pity, because I think he's a pretty honorable guy. Indeed, I'm very pleased at how directly he's come at the matter: no denials or evasions, just a flat apology and a correct sense of priorities. (That apologizing to his family comes first.) But he's got a real challenge now. Either he resigns, or he's going to have to work *very* hard to regain the public trust. The problem with a crystal-clear reputation is that it's brittle -- now that it's broken, he's going to have to work much harder to put it back together...
Tags: politics

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