I have always said that if Hillary Clinton got caught in the rain, she'd melt, I understand that there is a bit of sexism in that joke, but it's hard not to think that she deserves it. Clinton's entire rationale has been her gender and there has been a certain irony in that. There are all sorts of women in our world today who have accomplished all sorts of things that are wholly unrelated to their husbands. The whole "two for one" argument in Bill Clinton's first campaign was dated even then. A woman who goes to Yale Law School and becomes a partner in a decent law firm was not unusual even then. Hillary's chops as a gender pioneer went by the wayside long ago.
Her attacks on Obama now strike me as unlikely to work, in part, again ironically, because of the baggage from her husband's campaigns. The Clintons are consummate politicians. They will say or do anything. We - or at least enough of us - forgave it in Bill because he still managed to be engaging to those who wanted to believe in him and things went smoothly enough while he was in office (largely, I think, a function of the dotcom boom and a GOP Congress that pretty much prevented him from doing anything.)
But I think she has a point when she cautions against swooning over Obama. He is said to remind us of JFK and there is a sense in which I agree. JFK was lots of style but what substance he had (fierce cold warrior) is not one that the modern Democratic party much cares for. He did, in the end, come around on civil rights but the heavy lifting on that issue was done by Eisenhower and Johnson.
Obama is smart and articulate. He is supposed to have a great "message" but what is that message? As near as I can tell, it boils down to the fact that he hasn't been there before and we should hope for great things, somehow putting aside the "divisions" ot the past. While he says he eschews identity politics, the case for him being the one to do all this seems to rest entirely on his multiple identities. Black and white. Christian and Muslim. Ivy League elite and of humble origins. American and cosmopolitan.
I have a colleague who likes to say that people don't vote on a careful consideration of the issues, but in impression and image. I think that is often right as a descriptive matter and it seems to be what Obama is banking on.
But is it a good thing. Here Hillary has a good line. You campaign in poetry but you govern in prose. She wants to say that this favors her because she's the experienced one but I am not sure, in the end, that the voters are going to give her all that much advanced placement for living in the White House.
Four years ago, Barak Obama was in the Illinois state legislature. He makes a great virtue out of not voting for the war in Iraq. Well, he didn't vote against it either because he didn't have to. The notion that this guy, however smart and articulate he might be, is ready to be the most powerful man on Earth is wildly implausible. When he has spoken on foreign policy, he has shown a tendency to gaffe and exhibit a dangerous shallowness.
It certainly will be a historic day when an African American is elected President but the significance will not be so much what it changes (Condoleeza Rice would be a very different President than Barak Obama) as the way in which it confirms the change that has already happened. Obama's personal history means nothing. His soaring rhetoric means little. What matters is whether he can speak in prose.