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Jon Robin Baitz Headshot

Character as Destiny: The Clintonian Narcissism of 2008

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There is something stomach-turning about the Clintonian strategy for winning the nomination. Underneath that which is so disgusting, however, there are little passion plays playing out -- about the state of the nation, and the state of its soul-sick psyche. While there is no overt reason to conclude that they are racists, (if that sentence seems luke-warm, take a look at Hillary's own concession that Obama is not a Muslim), there is every possible reason to label the Clintons opportunists of the very first order. Bill Clinton was not a racist when he mouthed off in South Carolina; he was a desperate power-monger, flailing. Bob Johnson from BET doesn't really think Obama is a drug fiend -- it was just "an opportunity". Albeit a rather disgusting one. Howard Wolfson doesn't really think that Obama is like Ken Starr; it was just the sort of blind ad hominem news-cycle nonsense likely to distract from the actual, the real, the true; in other words -- it was opportunism. That is their true, true heartfelt religion. "Campaign" in Florida and then deny it? Fine: It's all fair game. Or the cynical suggestion by Senator Clinton that Obama would be a fine VP while at the same time declaring how unready he is seems to me precisely the sort of cynical paranoid post-modern solipsism of people who will say anything whatsoever to get what they want and then act stung when called on it. It borders on sociopathy. And like all opportunists, those in Camp Clinton have reached the conclusion that even a scorched earth campaign which devastates the party, vulgarizes the discourse even more than it already is vulgarized, and alienates millions of people who actually have come to hope for real change in this country, is worth the cost of a possible win. Personally, I find it far more likely that the only beneficiary of the Clintonian ugliness will of course be none other than that half-mad proponent of hundred-year wars, John McCain of Arizona, swooping in to the circular firing squad after the smoke and blood have cleared, so as to snatch a victory because the Dems cleverly snatched defeat.

Speaking of half-mad, speaking of snatching defeat -- the Clinton surrogacy of Geraldine Ferraro devolved in to an angry whine on the Today Show this morning. Ms Ferraro seems to think that Senator Obama has been the beneficiary of some sort of post-radical-chic "free-ride", a notion so laughable that it flies in the face of every last bit of information we have about what it means to not be white in America. Every single bit. She doesn't seem like a racist either, actually; merely an embittered ex-candidate and an old school feminist warrior whose legitimate passion has hardened into blindness and bile. (How did the Obama camp play "the race card" when it was she who launched into a dismissal of Senator Obama as "lucky" to be African-American.) I found myself telling the TV that Obama is where he is today in spite of being African-American. Still, Hillary Clinton's campaign seems to tap into something very real in this country -- the anger that many women carry over the costs incurred in the fight for gender equality for the last forty years.

Every day, one is struck by the (one-sided) viciousness in this fight. Six bloody weeks of it to go? Six weeks of coarsening opportunistic soulless nastiness. And the effect? Hillary Clinton's unfavorable rating amongst Obama supporters continues to rise according to the Wall Street Journal/MSNBC poll released tonight. The reverse is not true. And her coalition of white women and white blue-collar workers is unlikely to surge the way that young people and African-Americans are surging towards Obama. Those Americans -- the African-Americans who have been turned off by politics as usual and by total exclusion, the young who have been so disgusted by war-mongering and corruption so evident in the smug faces of those in power -- finally see in Obama something of the best in themselves, and something to aspire to: Idealism, dignity, hope, matched by strength and stoicism. Matched by a very keen sense of how to work the system.

In the meantime, the country itself needs to be repaired from inside out. Anti-intellectual, increasingly amoral, broke, and self-obsessed, a land of crumbling roads, crumbling dreams, and crumbling visions of how to care for the needy. A nation filled with invective and rudeness. (Have you ever seen how unmannerly the comments on HuffPost can be? If that is a reflection of how people are brought up today, then what is the point?) At the heart of how to repair a nation -- there is one essential ingredient to examine; and that, of course, is character. Over the next six weeks until Pennsylvania, we must think about that; the character of our leaders, of our nation. Because as Heraclites stated with total clarity -- character IS destiny.