by Todd Beeton, Tue Jul 01, 2008 at 02:23:37 PM EDT
Wouldn't it be ironic if, after months of demonizing Senator Clinton as the centrist candidate, the progressive left turns out to have helped to nominate the real heir to Clintonism.
Paul Krugman poses the question of whose brand of change Obama is more likely to emulate, Reagan transformation or Clinton triangulation. Krugman leans toward the latter.
Like Mr. Clinton, Mr. Obama portrays himself as transcending traditional divides. Near the end of last week's "unity" event with Hillary Clinton, he declared that "the choice in this election is not between left or right, it's not between liberal or conservative, it's between the past and the future." Oh-kay.
Mr. Obama's economic plan also looks remarkably like the Clinton 1992 plan: a mixture of higher taxes on the rich, tax breaks for the middle class and public investment (this time with a focus on alternative energy).
Sometimes the Clinton-Obama echoes are almost scary. During his speech accepting the nomination, Mr. Clinton led the audience in a chant of "We can do it!" Remind you of anything?
Just to be clear, we could -- and still might -- do a lot worse than a rerun of the Clinton years. But Mr. Obama's most fervent supporters expect much more.
Indeed, the iteration of Obama we've seen the last two weeks is not the bargain progressives thought they were getting although the writing was on the wall, but I agree with Krugman that we could do worse if Obama turns out to be Clinton with working majorities.
Now, what would be a truly tragic result of the progressive movement's embrace of Obama is if Obama actually names a Republican to be the Vice Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. I used to think the Chuck Hagel talk was just for show, you know, that whole "see, I'm so down with Republicans that I'm considering one for VP" thing, but according to John Heilemann, Hagel is getting "a serious look in Chicago." If true, this should make every progressive's blood boil.
Is there an argument for Hagel? Sure.
He has enormous cred on national security while at the same time being loudly antiwar. And because of his status as a member of the GOP, Hagel as V.P. would be a vivid symbol of Obama's stated desire to reach across the aisle for the sake of national unity, the word made flesh with respect to the nominee's post-partisan positioning.
But, sorry, consider me unmoved.
The reasons he shouldn't even be on any Democrat's VP list let alone short list are far more compelling:
Hagel really is a Republican. An interesting, principled, non-doctrinaire Republican, but a Republican all the same -- a bona fide conservative, even. (His positions on social and economic issues are almost identical to Bush's.) Choosing him would surely send a powerful message, but it's one that few Democrats want to hear: that there's no one in their party whom Obama considered equally or more worthy. The prospect of a Republican a heartbeat away from the Oval Office would cause the kind of en masse conniption at Denver Democratic convention that no sane standard-bearer would ever want to subject himself to.
And a little perusal of Hagel's actual record reveals just how unacceptable he really is. Looking at Drum Major Institute's Middle Class scorecard Hagel scored a D in 2003, an F in 2004, an F in 2005 and an F in 2007. On the issue of choice, according to Project Vote Smart, Hagel consistently receives 0 ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood and receives 100% ratings from National Right To Life Committee. So, while he's certainly one of the best Republicans on the war, there are 8 Republican senators that get a more liberal rating than Hagel overall by The National Journal. In fact he's listed as the 18th most conservative senator on economic issues, tied with Lindsay Graham.
Wow, great choice, senator!
But where's the outrage? There was certainly plenty of angst about the prospect of Obama's picking Hillary Clinton, something about her betraying his brand, but now that, from the left's perspective anyway, Obama has betrayed his own brand beyond even their worst fears, perhaps Clinton is looking like a better and better option, especially post-unity.
Heilemann states the obvious:
But it's hard to think of anyone who would fit the change-AND-experience bill that Obama is trying to fill -- except, that is, for a certain lady in a pantsuit. Hillary Clinton, of course, has plenty of baggage. And she is nobody's idea of an outsider. But given her gender, it wouldn't take much doing message-wise to frame her as an emblem of change. And even her critics acknowledge that her cojones are more than capacious enough to qualify her as commander-in-chief. [...]
Unity. Brand equity. A fighter's mettle. An ass-kicking ability as a debater. What more could you ask for in a veep? It's a question that, I bet, will be plaguing Obama in the days and weeks to come.
Do I think his picking Clinton is likely? Not especially, although it's probably far more palatable to the anti-Clinton forces today than it was just a couple of weeks ago. Nor do I actually think Obama will go with Hagel. The slap in the face it would represent to his base would be earth-shaking. But then why even entertain the notion and put out the message that he's a serious candidate? And where is the progressive movement's voice when it comes to pressuring Obama to actually choose well?