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Beth Arnold Headshot

Holiday from Hillary

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I just got back from two weeks in Kenya, which were at the minimum refreshing and at the maximum life-changing. Africa got under my skin. My take is that experiencing this continent is to feel a tribal drumbeat that reaches back to the origins of man and our archetypal memory. On some deep level, we're all home. If North America is the New World and Europe is the Old World, then Africa is the Primal World.

One of the joys of this holiday was the relief of not being pounded by the endless news cycles that carry beyond a reasonable doubt the decisively inept, devotedly wrong-headed, and internationally humiliating current administration's latest go at the world. Then, of course, there are the Republican stooges that continue to enable George and Dick, not to mention the never-ending presidential campaign. But I'm not leaving the Democrats out of this.

Before I left Paris, where I live, I'd become so disappointed in my own party that I felt there was little chance of respite from this downward American spiral even if a Democrat were elected next November -- as highly unlikely as that was with our party's efficiency at shooting ourselves in the chest while the Republican band plays on. I felt that the swamp of a Bush legacy would take years for our country to crawl out of. It would take new energy and ideas that I believe exist in the intellectual and bodily coffers among our candidates. But, when I left, Hillary's machine was bulldozing its way to a statistical lead that, even if I didn't agree with it, and I don't, it was rolling over anything fresh our party had to offer. She had gotten an early taste of first-kill blood and was beginning to remind me of this president.

I've felt for a long time that Hillary could be a disaster waiting to happen in 2008.

Do I feel bad saying that? Sort of. In the past, I've had great admiration for Hillary, though I have to admit that has lessened. And even though I'd love to see one of my gender in the oval office, I don't believe she has a chance in hell. This isn't news, but listen up, there are too many Hillary haters out there. Republicans are shoe-ins for this title, but there are crowds of Democrats who feel the same. And that's not all of it. We all know the worst-case scenario: The GOP gets its dream of Hillary being the candidate. She gets beat like they and some of us Democrats expect, and we get stuck with another ruinous Republican president.

Some Dems think this isn't possible with the mess Bush has secured for his fellow countrymen and global citizens. Some hard-core Hillary-ites won't even want to consider this. But why would anyone think a Republican can't get elected next year when the Democrats have become a party of wimps who continue to go along with him? When the supposed "leader" of the Democrats, Hillary, blows with whatever wind she thinks will get her elected, then we have no leadership.

Don't give me the old argument that she has to get elected before she changes anything. Oh yeah, sure, that's true. But where is the line drawn between showing character and integrity and caving or selling out? How easy is it to do the wrong thing because it gets you ahead or because you owe someone--like the health care industry (that has contributed $2.7 million to Hillary's campaign)?

After I returned home from Kenya, I was sitting at a table of friends when I got the revolting news that Hillary as well as other Democrats voted for the Senate resolution that basically gave our current president a potential excuse to go to war with Iran. I was dumbfounded that Hillary would STILL be giving George Bush a green light for anything so clearly problematic AND which happened to be sponsored by Republican buddy Joe Lieberman. Ditto for any Democrat. Is our party still so afraid of getting labeled soft on terrorism and war even when the American public is so clearly against the mess in Iraq? Who wants to rush into another one? We all know the answer to that one.

The issues raised about Hillary by her competitors in the debate the other night are mine, and they're other Democrats. But obfuscating her views is nothing new. She's been doing that for years. And as Arianna Huffington pointed out in a recent column, Hillary has made missteps. "...that moment in early June, during a Democratic debate in New Hampshire, when Clinton made the jaw-dropping claim: "I believe we are safer than we were [before 9/11]."

Then there was the classic the-surge-is-working Hillary offered up to the veterans in Kansas City -- in effect supporting George Bush in his great delusion and the illusion he was trying to use as a veil over the American public. That's a particular Hillary favorite of mine.

Huff Post's Off the Bus blogger, history professor, and editor Jon Weiner gets some of the best interviews with quotes about Hillary. "Carl Bernstein: Hillary Will Continue Bush's Legacy of Secrecy." Then, in a conversation he had with New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman. "We hope we're about to elect FDR," ...Krugman told me earlier this week, "but we might be about to elect Grover Cleveland." He said he was referring to the front-runner, Hillary Clinton... The punch line? "He (Cleveland) wasn't that different from the Republicans at the time."

At a recent dinner, a New Zealander friend who lives in London said she knew American Democrats who have said no way would they vote for Hillary. My friend said she didn't understand why people felt this way. But she's an outsider. Any American/any Democrat who says he or she doesn't understand isn't paying attention.

When Bill Clinton was elected president and the Hillary hatred started, it was unfair, unjust, and based on the mere fact that she was a smart and dynamic woman stepping out of the traditional feminine line. True Hillary haters' feelings probably haven't changed. But Democrats who are against her nomination have her record to review just like any other candidate, and it's her choices, her votes, her pandering, her obfuscating, her lack of showing anything fresh and alive and in fact becoming Republican-ish that have turned people away.