Sunday, December 20, 2015
Morning after: Democratic edition
Remember when you were a kid, and you'd get a present you didn't really like—the wrong toy—but you knew you had to accept it with as much grace and gratitude as you could muster? That's Hillary Clinton, for me. I looked at her face Saturday night, before she had spoken a word, on stage in New Hampshire for the third Democratic presidential debate, and sighed. I'm not sure what I wanted, but this wasn't it.
I could see why people are excited about Bernie Sanders. He's like the best college professor you ever had, flailing his arms and sputtering about how skewed the whole economic system is. I admired the speed with which he apologized to Clinton for his staffer looking over her campaign's data: a message most politicians, heck, most people, never get. Admit the wrong, move on.
But after watching the parade of right wing fear mongering on Tuesday, I couldn't get behind Sanders, because he'll lose to whatever nutjob the GOP offers up. The time might be right for a septuagenarian socialist president, in Norway, but not in the United States, where a single shooting can cause a third of the country to want to use the Bill of Rights as kindling for their security bonfires. Sanders is like a computer salesman going from hut to hut in Borneo. His customers just aren't ready for that. Maybe they never will be.
And Martin O'Malley. Governor of Maryland. He would have been my ideal candidate. He came down hard on anti-Muslim hate, condemning "the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths." When it comes to guns, he said, "What we need is not more polls, but more principles." Leading a conversation on a topic that the Republicans couldn't even touch. A guy born in Chicago murders 14 people, with his wife, in San Bernardino, and their solution is to bar Muslims from the country. As if they murdered them with their bare hands.
And O'Malley is young and handsome. Never underestimate the importance of optics in politics. Though he got booed when he brought the age of his opponents up. People are petty; I sure am. Every time the camera zoomed in from the back, I thought: Do I have to look at Hillary Clinton's ass for the next four years?
That said, O'Malley is like a person who steps out of a crowd, grabs your elbow and starts talking to you. Whatever sense he says is lost compared to the reaction of, "Who is this guy. I never saw him before in my life." And I watched earlier debates. It's just that O'Malley ha a way of not sticking in mind. He's the Democratic Lindsay Graham.
And Sanders, while right in a general way about the economy being skewed for the 1 percent, offered up a range of pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams, from free college tuition for all (failing to mention, for some reason, the ponies for the children while he was at it) and the wish that Saudi Arabia and Qatar will take over battling ISIS for us. He was good at framing the problem—"police officers should not be shooting unarmed people"—without saying what to do about it, which is the crux of the matter here.
Clinton was on the usual eight second delay. When the ABC moderators, who had a tough time keeping the three from talking over each other in a senseless babble, pointed out that Americans are rushing to buy guns to protect themselves from Muslims (not pointing out that the people most endangered when you buy a gun are yourself and your family) and challenged Clinton to react, she at first digressed, and for a moment my stomach sank, and I thought she was going to dodge. "Clinton boots gun control answer," I tweeted.
Then she nailed it.
"Guns in and of themselves in my opinion will not make Americans safer," she said. "We lose 33,000 people already to gun violence. Arming more people ... is not the appropriate response to terrorism." And I exhaled.
She was good at explaining why Republican scapegoating Muslims, at home and abroad, is not only morally wrong, but bad strategy. "We need to work with them, not demonize them," she said, calling Trump "ISIS' best recruiter."
And of course she ended the debate with, "May the force be with you," which made me smile, and think, "Okay, maybe that line was written by a $20,000 a month consultant. But she still said it."
What's that Rolling Stones lyric? "You can't always get what you want," Mick Jagger sang, "but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need." I can't say I'm excited about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency. There is something, if not quite dead, then lifeless in her eyes. She's the Generic Stuffed Bear when I had my heart set on a Winnie-the-Pooh Bear. So Hillary Clinton is not what we want. But she sure is what we have. And she beats the alternatives, big time, which makes her what we need. So she will have to do.