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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

National Rorschach test

Republicans see the devil incarnate. Some Democrats see a return to glory, while others lament about squandered lost opportunities.

The 2008 presidential primaries are ultimately about two men who aren't even on the ballot: George W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Yet, the object of their affection -- or derision -- is the single most visible female politician on the planet (with all due respect to Benazir Bhutto).

From the perspective of someone who believes that the end of the Bush fiasco calls for an end to Republican occupation of the White House and the other outposts of our government, the current torrent of words about the candidate who is on the ballot is a good thing.

The latest New York Times poll finds a majority of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire think Hillary Rodham Clinton is more likely to say what they want to hear rather than what she believes. But they also see hr as the best prepared and most electable Democrat in the field.

Republicans, on the other hand, see her as Bubba Redux, the punch line of jokes and those allegedly snappy nicknames dreamed up by the Troglodytes on the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

Seven years of Bush catastrophe and they still firmly believe their boy has been better for the country than Bill Clinton because Bush's self-righteous moralizing while condemning thousands to death and injury without a good reason is better than oral sex in the Oval Office.

What's more worthy of examination is the softer approach adopted by John Edwards and Barack Obama. Two months from the Iowa caucuses, both men are starting the Clinton Conversation -- with Edwards taking his gloves off while Obama adopts the glove slap across the face approach.

As I noted earlier, it's much better to have this debate now that in the days and weeks leading up to the general election. If Clinton fatigue is to outweigh Bush fatigue, it's better to know it now.

But what about that concept -- what exactly was wrong with the Clinton years beyond Bill's outsized libido getting in the way? Did Hillary have a penchant for excess secrecy in putting together a health care task force? Apparently no more than Dick Cheney and his energy task force.

The crimes of the Clinton administration -- rolled up and ties with a $72 million bow named Whitewater -- have proven themselves to be much hot air. The Clinton's chief accusers are now having lunch with Bubba and he's granting interviews to his tormentors.

We were not waging the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time (as much as Republicans tried to turn the Balkans mess into something else). Our economy was humming (perhaps too much irrational exuberance, but better than the have-have not situation we are in today).

Most of all, we had a nation where the Constitution was not treated as a candy bar wrapper (OK, so Newt and his cronies tried to stage a bloodless coup, but impeachment is defined in the document).

Billary are lightning rods, no question about it. The make the right turn apoplectic in much the same way that Richard Nixon, W. and Darth Cheney make Democratic blood vessels burst. There is a legitimate national debate about whether we want to continue with four or eight more years of vicious political infighting.

But that begs the question -- would all that go away with a President Edwards or President Obama (we know the answer to President Giuliani). My guess is no.

Republican attacks will continue no matter who sits in the Oval Office. That's all the party has left to show for an ideology based in fear and smear. So the pinata question is not the operative one in making this decision.

Rather it is who has the right combination of skills and vision to get out out of the pit of despair that has ruled this nation since the GOP took over Congress in 1994 and sent comity and fairness down the toilet.

So let's get past all this Clinton angst and get down to the real problems facing us -- and who can do the best job of fixing them.

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