Pittsburgh Tribune Evaluates Hillary
by bobbank, Sun Mar 30, 2008 at 11:30:17 AM EDT
In the Sunday edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune, Richard Scaife describes his recent interview with Hillary Clinton. By his own admission:
More than most modern political figures, Sen. Clinton has been criticized regularly, often harshly, by the Trib.
This seems to me consistent with many in the media, whose disposition toward the Senator from New York ranges from skepticism to contempt. Indeed, I confess that I was once guilty of this bias myself. While all who know her describe her as warm, I was taught she is "cold". Despite the fact that she has a strong, proven record for working across party lines, I was taught that she is "polarizing". Despite her campaign's consistent focus on the articulation of real policy, I was taught that she is "negative".
Therefore, I was anxious to see how the folks at the Pittsburgh Tribune would react to Hillary Clinton, upon finally meeting her in person:
Hillary Clinton walked into a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review conference room last Tuesday to meet with some of the newspaper's editors and reporters and declared, "It was so counterintuitive, I just thought it would be fun to do." The room erupted in laughter.
Her remark defused what could have been a confrontational meeting. More than that, it said something about the New York senator and former first lady who hopes to be America's next president.
The very morning that she came to the Trib, our editorial page raised questions about her campaign and criticized her on several other scores. Reading that, a lesser politician -- one less self-assured, less informed on domestic and foreign issues, less confident of her positions -- might well have canceled the interview right then and there.
Sen. Clinton came to the Trib anyway and, for 90 minutes, answered questions.
Her meeting and her remarks during it changed my mind about her.
Walking into our conference room, not knowing what to expect (or even, perhaps, expecting the worst), took courage and confidence. Not many politicians have political or personal courage today, so it was refreshing to see her exhibit both. Sen. Clinton also exhibited an impressive command of many of today's most pressing domestic and international issues. Her answers were thoughtful, well-stated, and often dead-on.
The column concludes emphatically:
I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today than before last Tuesday's meeting -- and it's a very favorable one indeed.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of this primary contest has been the herd mentality that many, including prominent pundits, exhibit. There is a tendency to latch onto whichever opinion piece best resembles your own. And there is a stark determination not to learn the truth, when the truth is not convenient.
I remember my mindset, when I cast my vote for Barack Obama in the Virginia primary. I believed that I was voting for change. I had hoped that, despite his lack of qualifications, Barack Obama might be the "real thing". And I was willing to take a chance on that. In short, I accepted unquestionably the caricatures that the media had invented, crutches that alleviated the challenge of thinking critically about these two historic candidates.
Somehow, that equation changed over the weekend before March 4th. The Obama camp's duplicity on NAFTA served as a wake-up call. It was past time to liberate myself from the hype and get real about these two candidates. As I watched the primary go on, with eyes wide open now, the contrast between the two campaigns couldn't be more obvious. Joseph Wilson, wife to Valerie Plame, and himself a former Diplomat, draws this contrast powerfully in his recent piece, Smears and Tears.
Nevertheless, the success of Barack Obama marketing has been breathtaking. He has convinced well-meaning, Progressive folk across the country that a mandate for universal healthcare, one of our cornerstone issues, would be a bad thing. He has persuaded the most strident advocates of a democratic process that counting people's votes would not be right. This advertising machine has managed to do things that Karl Rove could only dream of. It exemplifies what Barack Obama himself admired about Ronald Reagan: the ability to convince people to vote against their own self-interest.
Says Steve Grossman, former chairman of Howard Dean's 2004 campaign:
The liberal wing of the Democratic Party falls in love with quasi-messianic figures who come along regularly with an exciting, aspirational vision for where the country must go, often coupled with an unpopular war, at least an unpopular war among progressives, and for a significant time they are ascendant within that liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
[Yet] when the broader cross section of the Democratic Party takes a somewhat more dispassionate look at the field and says who is ready to be president of the United States and bring the kind of vision and leadership to the job, those quasi-messianic figures tend to fall short.
Whether Barack Obama will "fall short", as a probable nominee or a possible President, no one can know. Clouded by so much rhetoric is a mediocre record that offers no indication of the sort of bold, change-oriented leadership that his campaign promises. Perhaps this best explains his tendancy to prefer the character destruction of his opponent over a substantive dialogue on issues, or arguments about delegate math over the articulation of policy.
Some suggest the best indication of an Obama presidency comes not from Barack, but another client of David Axelrod's: Deval Patrick. The similarities between the two clients have not been seriously explored, except by some media in Massachusetts, where Deval Patrick is now Governor. The state's first-hand experience with the aftermath of a David Axelrod marketing campaign is not encouraging: Patrick doesn't seem to be able to get anything done. A friend of mine living outside of Boston told me that she believes this is the reason Massachusetts voted for Clinton, despite the best efforts of Senators Kerry and Kennedy to the contrary.
All of this serves to underscore the contrast between the characters of Clinton and Obama, and the real people behind those characters. In that sense, the results of Hillary's recent interview with the Pittsburgh Trib are not so surprising. Finally able to meet the real person, and question her for over an hour, they walked away with the same impression that many have after spending time with Hillary Clinton: a competent, thoughtful person who is imminently qualified to be our next President.