Thursday, March 06, 2008

So, last I checked, Hillary's campaign desperately wanted us to believe these two things:

  • Among two remaining candidates with similar positions on many issues, she's the one to pick because her experience and seasoned political team make her "ready to lead on day one".
  • Results in caucus states should be ignored because they only reflect the organizational advantage of the Obama campaign, which has left her seasoned political team in the dust.

Hillary's big argument is experience. But experience is only worth what you learn from it, and in 2002, Hillary was saying that "eight years of experience" had taught her that, at the very least, Dubya deserved the benefit of the doubt when it came to the WMD case for invading Iraq. And her other claims to foreign policy experience are even more dubious.

Domestically, her major claim to experience is her health care expertise. But the single most important fact about that reform effort is that it failed. On substantive points, the case for reform was excellent, but she couldn't make it stick then --- just as now, in the last debate, she couldn't convincingly explain the differences between her (superior) health care plan and Obama's, despite what seemed like ten minutes of trying. (And while Obama's slightly deceptive fudging of that issue has bothered me for a while now, Hillary's fudging of her position on NAFTA during her husband's administration is just as bad, so she doesn't even have that in her favor any more.)

As for Obama, he doesn't have any really significant bills at the federal level. Nor does Hillary — because as long as either one has been in the Senate, Republicans have been running the show. (Over the last two years, because Harry Reid has been letting them, but there we are.) At the state level, though, he does have the bill mandating taping of all police interrogations in Illinois — which got passed nearly unanimously despite strong initial opposition. It's only one major legislative win — but that's one more than Hillary has in all her years of so-called "experience."

In a general election, it's not hard to see what one attack on Hillary might be: that her vaunted claims to "experience" are empty; that they amount to nothing more than years getting her face on TV. It's a "phony candidate" claim potentially as nasty, in its own way, as the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry — with the added advantage, as Kissinger once said, of being true.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The latest from Attorney General Michael Mukasey: he won't prosecute two ex-administration officials for contempt of Congress because their refusal to testify had been authorized by the President, who has taken the doctrine of "executive privilege" to mean that he can declare just about any inconvenient fact to be outside of Congressional purview. If that rips the guts out of Congress's power to oversee the executive branch, what of it? That self-same Congress ripped the guts out of habeas corpus a few years ago, so they can hardly stand on principle now.

A few weeks ago, I noted the dilemna faced by our majority-Democratic Senate in Mukasey's confirmation hearings:

... there were those who quibbled on such minor things as his refusal to say clearly whether one of the Spanish Inquisition's favorite torture techniques was actually torture. They believed that the Democrats needed to stand firm and demand that Mukasey show he clearly believed in accountability and the long-established principles of the rule of law. But these impractical idealists were confronted with the pragmatic realities of the situation: if they failed to confirm Mukasey, we'd all be stuck with a time-serving former deputy of the disgraced Alberto Gonzales, who would do Dubya's bidding and nothing else.
At the time, I didn't think the vote had made much of a practical difference. But it seems I was wrong. If anyone in Congress complains about Mukasey now, Dubya and his minions can point out in unaccustomed candor that Congressional Democrats approved the son of a bitch.