Friday, February 15, 2008

DeLong links to Hilzoy, who reminds me why DeLong Smackdown is necessary

by Ken Houghton

Yes, it's another Clinton/Obama post. Feel free to skip, or wait for Tom's comment and read from there to here.

(On the plus side, Tom's attempt at pre-emption has saved me from having to discuss Mark Penn, about whom the less said the better, unless you are Lee Papa, which none of [the rest of] us is. Even if Papa does seem to share the ObamaNation double-standard that Their Man can go on Faux News every day, but HRC agreeing to debate him on there is Evil Calculated Pimping.)

Hilzoy continues the Cult* of Obama with a slagging of the HRC campaign almost worthy of Mr. Papa if he were taking his meds. And I blame Brad DeLong: partially because she does.

We learn, for instance, that "Hillary Clinton's seven years in the Senate have been pretty undistinguished." (Tom, for instance, knows better.) Of course, in fairness, Hilzoy disagrees with Tom about Terry McAuliffe's value: "Various Clinton insiders, including (according to Greene) Terry McAuliffe and Maggie Williams -- tried to get [Patty Solis Doyle] fired [after 2006]."**

When Hilzoy adds commentary, it is strange:
[T]he NYT story Greene quotes says that the campaign spent "$27,000 for valet parking, paid as much as $800 in a single month in credit card interest and ā€” above all ā€” paid tens of thousands of dollars a month to an assortment of consultants and aides."

$27,000 in valet parking, in a state that includes NYC, which was visited multiple times, in multiple locations, by multiple cars holding multiple people over multiple months? The only thing amazing about that is that it the number was so low.

Consultants? For someone doing a lot of internal polling, and probably preparing for a national run and higher office? I know Hilzoy and I do everything out of the goodness of our hearts, but the Mark Penns and Mark Kleimans get paid. (Unfortunately or not, they get paid win or lose. As Toby Ziegler says in the first episode of the second season of The West Wing (roughly) "I"m a political consultant." "How many races have you won." "None."

In fairness, the $800 in interest charges looks suspicious. The rest looks like the two make-up sessions for which John Edwards's campaign paid $400 ($200 each, which NYCites will assure you is a bargain) that have been miraculously transformed into "haircuts."

Then there is the evil of HRC herself. HIlzoy quotes Josh Greene—"[A]bove all, Clinton prizes loyalty and discipline, and Solis Doyle demonstrated both traits"—as if this were unique. (See Todd Purdum's Vanity Fair piece on Obama, for instance. Or find me any politician on the national stage who doesn't prize loyalty and discipline above all.***)

Hilzoy then invokes Brad DeLong's 2003 piec—the one I discussed extensively here,; the one that self-described "progressive" HRC haters (and, now, Obama supporters) continually invoke as "proof" of her evil. (In this, they are rather similar to the people who take Obama's admission of cocaine use in his younger days as defining his abilities and accomplishments.) The one that, until October of 2007, was missing its key paragraph (even if the 'graf was, allegedly, "hoisted from the archives"):
t is hard to tell how much power Hillary Rodham Clinton had. Certainly she did not effectively manage the process. But I did see Ira Magaziner in action. And it seems to me that the process was impossible to manage as long as Ira Magaziner was involved, and perhaps she did not have the power to fire him.

She did, presumably, have the power to fire Sollis Doyle, and has the power to fire Mark Penn, and much of Hilzoy's post is devoted to "she didn't do it, so she's a Bad Leader" ranting.****

After quoting the two articles at length, Hilzoy coming to rather a interesting conclusion:
[DeLong] later decided that he had been unfair: according to "her people", "she has done an awful lot more over the past fifteen years, and done almost all of it very successfully."

The sarcasm quotes around "her people" are, I hasten to note, not Brad DeLong's, and my previous, abundant respect for Hilzoy declines because of them. It is only the next sentence that causes that respect to fall off the cliff:
I have never really known what that "awful lot more" was, so I've never felt competent to judge what Hillary Clinton's people say.

Yes, this is the same woman who said (before inserting some long quotes from two others) that "Hillary Clinton's seven years in the Senate have been pretty undistinguished."

Quoting my fellow sufferer of Hansen's Disease:
I have read and heard plenty of good arguments making the case that Hillary Clinton will not be an ideal or even a good President. I've heard and read plenty of good arguments that she won't be the best candidate.

I have yet to read or hear a good argument making the case that Obama will be an ideal or a good President or even a better one than Clinton.

Mostly I've heard and read are arguments based entirely on the hope that he will be any or all of those things.

And I've heard and read a lot arguments based entirely on the fear of what the Presidential campaign will be like if Clinton's the nominee.

The end of the first, and the last, appears to be near the center of Patrick's analysis that left him "on balance Iā€™m impressed. Not transported. Not uncritical. But impressed." with Obama. (The posting of Elise Matthesen's Straw Man, is presumably another story, one only compounded by Patrick's .*****)

Indeed, the closest thing we had to why Obama will make a good President was Hilzoy's post (cited with distinction by Patrick, Tom, and amanda as the first comment to Lance's post.) As Lance notes, "it basically makes a case I never doubted, that Obama has been one of the good guys." (My own doubts are public knowledge, and based on the public comments and publications of his circle of advisors, public [David Cutler, Cass Sunstein] and private [e.g., the "strong women" cited in Purdum's article]—but those are doubts that Obama is more a progressive Democrat than HRC, not that he'll do less harm than the Republican nominee.)

But Hilzoy's "Actually, I think we can" now appears to be selective advocacy presented as reasoned analysis.

I won't be crying that HRC (and especially Mark Penn) got out-triangulated. But it would be nice if people who claim to be Obama supporters were really more than HIllary bashers. (Tom, as noted before, does not fall into the latter category. I had hoped—apparently erroneously—that he was not alone in that.)

*Yes, Patrick, I'm calling it that; since your source asks why a man who continually invokes his religious beliefs is tagg[ed] with the term messiah,, I rest the case and await being pilloried)

**Hilzoy, among others, clearly agrees that it would have been better if HRC had followed that advice. But then I suppose she would have had to find something else about which to write.

***Barrack Obama, after all, is married to Michelle, who declared that she "might" support HRC if her husband loses the nomination, and then offered the bromide that "everyone in this party is going to work hard for whoever the nominee is."
****For the record, I'll go with DeLong and Ezra Klein on this one:
[T]he Clinton team has run a pretty good campaign. [B]etter, indeed, than what I thought they'd run. It may or may not prove to be enough, and looking back, there will surely be identifiable mistakes and botched opportunities.

which one can say of any campaign, even Obama's. Not that I would, since Lance and I already may be the only lepers left in the colony.

*****I assume it is clear that no one would accuse me of considering Obama a "starry-eyed idealist." If it isn't, see here. Warning: it's long.

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I don't think this will make the DSW. There are some good points here, notably that the Clinton campaign blowing through $80 million through 12/31/2007 is not a problem per se -- Obama spent $5M more during the same period.

What does seem to be shaping up is that the money was spent a lot differently by the two campaigns, and Obama's expenditures seem to have bought a lot more ground game. Significant expenditures on consultants may be part of a serious campaign for a presidential nomination, but there still can be such thing as overspending on them.

You're letting the Clinton campaign off too easily with the quick dismissal of Penn, who's insulted half the party trying to spin the Clinton campaign back into a non-Giulianiesque position. And, as I've said before, he's no 19-year-old volunteer who says something unfortunate, but rather is the campaign's chief strategist. To quote a DeLong-ism, the Cossacks work for the Czar.

In the Senate, HRC takes flack (e.g., from me) legitimately (IMHO) for having failed to lead on the war and other national security issues. Ducking the vote on the Dodd amendment isn't exactly a strong showing on that front, either. She's not a problem Democrat on domestic issues like, say, my home state's Tom Carper, but also really doesn't step far to the left of WJCism.
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