No Thank You, Hillary, I’ll Pass

Am I really the only liberal in the country who hasn’t already thanked, raised money for, supported, door-knocked for, voted for and attended the 2016 inauguration of Hillary Clinton as President?

I love these conventional wisdom commentators who are all saying the Democratic nod for president is Hillary’s if she wants it. Why? How come? Really?

Hillary for blogI’ve gotten emails every day for the last month saying “please sign this card for Hillary thanking her for her amazing superlative selfless saintlike damngood service to the country, the species and the universe.” It’s as if we’re all so greatly indebted to this masterwoman who lowered herself from her corporate board seats to serve poor drooling humanity one more time.

The latest is an email story from The Washington Post announcing a contest —  Help Hillary name her upcoming memoir. I’ve got a name for Hillary’s book that’s fitting — “ME!”

Let me step firmly off this bandwagon.

Carl Bernstein’s excellent and revealing 2007 biography of Clinton showed her to be soulless, a person driven by whatever is best for her. Measured, focus-grouped, a person whose core principles are all about advancing herself.

Has she done a good job a secretary of state? Yes. Has this been good service to the United States and world? Yes. Does she believe in and advocate for important causes, such as the empowerment of women worldwide? Yes. She, like all of us, is a complicated woman, a blend of selfish and selfless.

But what’s at her core? Watching her last week testifying before the Senate, reading — READING — her remarks about how she stood at Andrews Air Base and watched the coffins return from Benghazi and how she put her arms around the daughters and spouses showed her to be — hollow. Reading these remarks? Did she have margin notes — “Choke up just a little here…”?

This is the person who, in the 2008 campaign, when Republicans were attacking Barack Obama for not being American and for being Muslim, responded when asked about his religion — “As far as I know he’s a Christian.” What a profile in courage. The ugly sewer-level whispering about Obama was benefiting Hillary, so she was going to do the least required of her to deal with it. Compare this to what I’ve posted on this blog several times — Colin Powell excoriating his fellow Republicans for not stamping out this disgraceful canard.

Even my oldest brother, who can cherish a grudge like fine wine, says I have to let go and get over this. But I don’t think I will. Character, or its lack, shows through in key places in a person’s life, and I think with Hillary we’ve seen what we’ll get.

I don’t find her a compelling political leader nor a mind with great vision, as I’ve found Obama. She has a good shot at becoming the first female president — but should she be elected because she’s female? What’s the bumper sticker — “Not just any woman”? There are many women leaders in the country who would make better presidents, even if they would have a harder time getting elected.

But could Clinton get elected? I think her lack of character would show, as it did in the 2008 campaign. Against a genuine and passionate and younger Republican — she’d have great trouble.

But apparently I’m the only one who’s not waving a Hillary 2016 flag. I’m not ready for the restoration — I think it’s time to keep moving in the direction Obama is heading us.

— Bruce Benidt

 

 

(Image from NBC News

William Souder’s “On a Farther Shore” Scores NYTimes Nod

Congratulations to our very Rowdy William Souder whose biography of Rachel Carson, On a Farther Shore, has been named to the “100 Notable Books of 2012″ by the New York Times.

What a nice acknowledgment for our friend of a job well done.

Author and reviewer Elizabeth Royte calls Williams’s writing “absorbing.” Here’s part of her summary:

In Souder’s telling, almost every aspect of Carson’s life and times becomes captivating: her difficult personal circumstances (she grew up in rural poverty, was the sole breadwinner in her family and battled breast cancer while writing and then defending “Silent Spring”); the publishing milieu; and the continuing friction between those who would preserve nature versus those who would bend it to provide utility for man.

Sources also tell me Bill will be on C-SPAN’s “Book TV” this Saturday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m. our time. (And, no, I am not his press agent.)

How cool is this all? Way cool. Nicely played, Master Souder.

The culture war is bullshit

Summarizing Fiorina's lack of a culture war

On the eve of this election — I’m told it’s the most important one, like, ever — I’d like you all to consider one thing: The “culture war” is bullshit.

More specifically, the common conception of these “two Americas” with a vast chasm between them is bullshit. (Although we run the risk of it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.) How do I know this? It’s just (social) science.

I recently read again a book from one of my wonderful political science classes at St. Thomas. Because I’m a geek like that. “Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America” by Morris P. Fiorina makes a pretty compelling case, and it’s certainly an interesting read. (I read the 2005 edition; there’s a 2010 update, as well.) The preface conveniently sums things up pretty well, so I’ll just let Fiorina do the talking:

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say that we all were entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts. This book uses simple facts to confront a distorted political debate in this country. Increasingly, we hear politi­cians, interest group leaders, and assorted “activists” speak half-truths to the American people. They tell us that the United States is split right down the mid­dle, bitterly and deeply divided about national issues, when the truth is more nearly the opposite. Americans are closely divided, but we are not deeply divided, and we are closely divided because many of us are ambivalent and uncertain, and consequently reluctant to make firm commitments to parties, politicians, or poli­cies. We divide evenly in elections or sit them out entirely because we instinctively seek the center while the parties and candidates hang out on the extremes.

How can the prevailing view assert the direct opposite? Mainly for want of contradiction by those who know better. We should not expect political actors to speak truthfully to us. For them, words are weapons, and the standard of success is electoral and legislative victory, not education or enlightenment. We may regret that perspective, but it should not surprise us. What is more surprising, and more disappointing, is that inaccurate claims and charges made by members of the political class go uncorrected by those who have some occupational responsibil­ity to correct them, namely, members of the media and academic communities.

Increasingly, the media have abandoned their informational role in favor of an entertainment role. If colorful claims have news value, well then, why worry about their truth value? Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story line. As for those of us in academia, we roll our eyes at the television, shake our heads while reading the newspapers, and lecture our students on the fallacies reported in the media, but few of us go beyond that. Mostly we talk to and write for each other.

In the past few years there have been increasing indications (see chapter 1) that high-level political actors are beginning to believe in the distorted picture of American politics that they have helped to paint. This development threatens to make the distorted picture a self-fulfilling prophecy as a polarized political class abandons any effort to reach out toward the great middle of the country. That threat has motivated this ivory tower academic to attempt to provide his fellow citizens with a picture of American politics that is very different from the one they see portrayed on their televisions and described in their newspapers and maga­zines, a picture I think they will recognize as a more accurate reflection of their social surroundings.

Reality, as Fiorina describes it, isn’t two disconnected sets of culture warriors separated by a vast chasm; it’s a a bell curve with most of us in the middle and the few kooks on the poles buying ink by the barrel.

Put more simply: Chances are, your neighbor’s not (necessarily) an asshole. The spokesperson for your neighbor’s preferred candidate for senate, however, very well might be.

Vote in peace. Then lighten up.

One of Our Own…

Kudos to our blogmate Souder for birthing another book, On a Farther Shore, The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Carson’s Silent Spring and it is a fitting time for a top-flight author like Bill to look back on what that book did – and didn’t – mean for the environmental movement and how it came along just as the American people (and others) were first awakening to the idea that “Better Living Through Chemicals” might not be true in every instance.

Mr. Souder gave a nice interview on the book to MinnPost that’s available here and you can – I’m sure – expect to see other interviews pop up on whatever passes for a press tour today.

Well done, Mr. Souder, except for the collateral damage of making the rest of your blogmates look like slackers.  We’d welcome any posting you’d care to make about the book, Ms. Carson or the research and writing process.

– Austin

 

 

Oprah A Lauder of Rowdy Crowder Souder

News Flash:  Rowdy Crowder William Souder’s book about environmental pioneer Rachel Carson, On a Further Shore:  The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, will be available at a book store near you on September 4, 2012.

And here’s the really big news.  Her Oprahness has recommended William’s book to her adoring book-buying throngs, via O Magazine’s list of books you should buy in September.  Congratulations, William!

William didn’t ask us to plug this, but it needed to be noted.  Buy the book, gang, or Oprah will not be pleased.

– The Management

The Presidents Club — Presidents are Actually Humans

My cousin Robert handed me The Presidents Club the other day, a book about the years after office of every president since Hoover. It’s a delightful book; I’ve barely put it down.

If our Rowdy Book Club book brings you down — it’s worse than you think — The Presidents Club will give you some hope — politicians can act like human beings, although maybe only when they’re no longer running for anything.

This book did something amazing — made me feel some compassion for George W. Bush. It couldn’t make me feel the same for Richard Nixon, but that’s asking too much. What the book does show is former presidents still wanting to serve their country, still wanting, in George H.W. Bush’s words, to do something “bigger than your own political lives, or bigger than your own self.”

What do you do after you’ve been president? You get a life back, but some of the cool stuff, like the plane, is gone. Most shocking, you arent as important anymore. Nixon and LBJ had trouble being off center stage, Truman and George W. seem to have quite liked it.

The best part of this book — and one of the best things I’ve read in years — is the chapter on George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The two worked together, at W’s request, to raise and distribute funds after the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. And they became true friends. The Odd Couple, the brash one beating the reserved one in 1992, but joined after office by that desire to do something that matters. Their friendship, Clinton said, demonstrates something the country longs for — people from opposing sides coming together to do good.

At the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library in 2004, W and his father were there, and W noticed his dad and Clinton, enjoying animated conversation, were lagging behind the main tour. Bush asked an aide to retrieve the two former presidents so they could all get started on lunch: “Tell 41 and 42 that 43 is hungry.” The elder Bush and Clinton became so close that Bush called Clinton immediately after Clinton had surgery, checking up on him. Later W, at the Gridiron Dinner in D.C., joked that Clinton, after surgery, “woke up surrounded by his loved ones: Hillary, Chelsea…my Dad.”

The book shows Jimmy Carter’s huge ego and huge energy for good causes, shows once again Gerald Ford’s decency (and skips over the fact that he charged people money to play golf with him — his version of giving lucrative speeches), LBJ’s demons, Eisenhower’s straightforwardness, and Nixon’s incessant drive to pretend his Watergate lies didn’t disqualify him from the international stage. Amazingly, Clinton talked often to Nixon, getting advice on issues and on living as the president. A major theme of the book is that former presidents are loyal to the office and the country and try not to damage their successors.

This book, published in April, written by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, is the best book on governing and politics I’ve read since Robert Caro’s fourth volume of LBJ’s biography, The Passage of Power. Both show how hard being president is, and how character faults will crack under the office’s pressures. The Presidents Club shows there can be second chances.

— Bruce Benidt
(Photo from time.com)

Book Club Reminder

Hello Crowdies.  Just a reminder that our Same Rowdy Crowd Book Club is scheduled to meet a week from today to discuss Thomas Mann’s and Norm Ornstein’s book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.

I’ve extended an invitation to the authors to participate but haven’t heard anything in response.  Not surprising given their schedules, but I figured it was worth an e-mail.

My plan is to post an initial take on the book, pose a couple of questions and then step back to watch the fur fly.  I’ll try to be close to the computer that day so as to facilitate as needed.

The book is an easy read so it’s not too late to get in on the fun.

– Austin

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