Surely the Democratic candidates are breaking some sort of debate record—18 and counting…or was this #19? In any case, as Bill Maher noted, soon they’re going to hold a Candidates Reunion, where they bring back Joe Biden, Kucinich and all the rest of the Democratic candidates from the good ole days of 2007.
Thursday’s mano a mano between Senators Obama and Clinton was the first I watched from beginning to end without pause—usually I turn it on, watch five minutes, get restless, and leave it on as ambient noise while I go about my business. This time I paid enough attention that I might have something to say….well, we shall see about that.
I’m in disagreement, for a change, with the pundits and talking heads, all of whom agree that Hillary took a nosedive, and the crowning of Obama is a done deal. It seems to me they make up their minds beforehand, then pick and choose to highlight or spin whatever confirms their thesis. They decided that Hillary was all washed up, and pounced on her weakest moments to confirm it, ignoring anything contradictory.
John Dickerson announced post-debate that Hillary “referred to her husband’s infidelities.” Pause. Deep Breath. Control blood pressure. She most definitely did not refer to her husband’s infidelities! In response to the final question, which was something to do with the candidates’ greatest life crises or challenges, Hillary said, with a wry half-smile, “Everybody here knows I’ve lived through some crises and challenging moments.” She was rewarded with a big, appreciative laugh and a hearty round of applause.
If she’d written the same thing in a memoir, and Dickerson had written a review of it with the same falsehood, letters to the editor would have come pouring in; consider this my letter to the editor. The beauty of her response is precisely that she did not pinpoint her ‘challenges,’ that she left it open to interpretation, using humor at her own expense, being deeply personal without sinking to the realm of the ‘confessional.’ The pundits did agree that Hillary scored her biggest points with her follow-up: “With all my challenges,” she said, “they’re nothing compared to what I see going on in people’s lives every day.”
Let me tell you, as a woman who’s raised two kids alone, as the mother of a person with a chronic medical condition, and as a friend to others living in daily struggle, I really appreciated that statement. I cannot abide cluelessness among the privileged class, but I believe Hillary meant what she said. I know people who share her point of view: I once knew someone who was raised by the kind of family we all wish we had: loving, devoted parents; wealthy, smart, liberal New Yorkers with a house or two in the country. Drummed into her from birth was that, as people of privilege, it was incumbent upon them to give back. Her parents lived this principle, and she grew up taking for granted political activism, volunteer work, donating to charity, generosity toward friends—and, maybe most significant of all, a lack of judgment toward the less fortunate. She did not think that because I was poor I ‘d done something to deserve it. Unlike most people, she never gave me advice about my son, with whom she developed an independent relationship; rather, she acknowledged the difficulties of the situation. So when Hillary says she wants to give back to this country because “America has given me so much,” I don’t doubt her sincerity.
Hell, I’ve drifted so far afield from my intention to write a succinct recap of the debate, I hardly know where to go now. I guess what I most want to emphasize is that I’ve come to like Hillary Clinton—a lot. I even wish I’d cast my vote for her, rather than ‘making a statement’ by going with Edwards, because it looks like she might not make it, that Barack Obama will be the candidate, and, please dear gods and goddesses, the next president of the United States. I’m sad that we still won’t have a woman president. I’m curious as to what it says about our country that we’ll finally elect an African-American but not a woman—or whether that’s even being said. And I feel a sense of loss: I’ve come to believe that Hillary Clinton would be an excellent President.
I’ve never been too sure about Obama, and I’m getting even less sure as time goes on; however, I intend to support the Democratic candidate no matter who, so I’d best begin keeping my reservations to myself. If I really wanted to, I could deliver a full-blown diatribe—and though I’m itching to let it rip, I think, in this situation, discretion is the better part of valor.
There’s still a slim chance Senator Clinton will make it. And by the way, why do we call her Hillary and call him Obama? I realize we need to distinguish her from her husband, and that using just her first name makes her kind of a rock star—but it can also be read as disrespect, especially considering that Geraldine Ferrarro was frequently referred to by first name only. I’ve been meaning to point this out for a while now.
In any case, I’m finally on board for President Hillary Clinton—warts, baggage and all—but I fear it’s too little too late. I can only hope that some of the Obama groupies yet to vote change their minds before they do.
Note: It’s the 50th birthday of the peace symbol, and I just found out how it was created. So can you, here.