HARRY & LOUISE & BARACK….A week ago, in the wake of multiple slimings of Barack Obama by the Hillary Clinton campaign — including “Osama” emails from two of her Iowa county chairs, Billy Shaheen’s drug accusations, and Bob Kerrey’s “secular madrassa” comments — I was feeling pretty poorly disposed toward Mrs. Clinton. But my dyspepsia wore off pretty quickly. Politics is politics, after all, and in the annals of campaign black arts this stuff is small potatoes. In the end, it’s forgivable.
But I have to say: my less charitable feelings toward Obama aren’t wearing off. They’re growing. It’s true that I’ve never been a big fan of his Kumbaya schtick, but I also recognized it as both sincere and a good campaign tactic. I figured that if he could use it to win an election and build a wave of public opinion for progressive policies, that would be great.
But you know what? I’ve been voting for three decades now. I’ve heard lots of politicians take up the “bold truthteller” meme. I’ve listened to lots of great speeches. I’ve seen plenty of campaigns that turned on whether the press simply felt more warmly disposed toward one candidate or the other for no good reason. (It’s Christmas, so: yes, Bob, the worst example in recent memory was the press corps’ treatment of Gore and Bush in 2000.) And I’ve also been exposed to my share of “post-partisan” candidates who could somehow bring a third way to Amerca’s hyperpartisan politics.
Maybe this is one reason that I’m not quite as taken by Obama as a lot of people: I’ve seen it before. Gene McCarthy, Jimmy Carter, John Anderson, Gary Hart, Paul Tsongas, and John McCain, among others, have all taken up this banner in past elections. And not to put too fine a point on it, but this isn’t exactly a hit parade of either electoral or policy success.
And now there’s this. Obama’s using Harry & Louise clones to attack a key plank in progressive healthcare policy. I know that we blog readers are policy geeks and barely one person in a hundred cares about this kind of stuff. But I do, and I’m only willing to put up with the Kumbaya campaign as long as I think that, in the end, it really is going to promote progressive ends. Takeoffs on Harry & Louise decidedly don’t. If that’s where he’s going, I’m getting off the train.