Separating the Signal From the Noise

I’m coming late and reluctantly to the game. But I am finally going to write a few words about the current hysteria over Hillary Clinton.

First of all, we don’t know whether or not she will be the Democratic nominee in 2016. That looks extremely likely, but I don’t indulge in fortune-telling. If she is the nominee, there are a couple of things we should keep in mind.

1. It is sexist to equate Hillary with Bill – whether that includes giving her credit for his successes or faulting her for his shortcomings. She deserves to be evaluated as her own person.

2. Any attempt to suggest that Clinton will be more or less vilified by Republicans and the media than President Obama is a losing proposition. The specifics of how they go after Clinton will be different than how they’ve attacked this President. But attack they will. It’s their only game plan at the moment.

Because of those things, Democrats are going to have to get a whole lot better than they’ve been lately at separating the signal from the noise. What we’ve been exposed to over the last couple of weeks over Clinton’s emails is nothing but noise. Most of us knew that within a few days of when the story broke. Even so, way too many liberals reached back into their 90’s playbook and managed to do all sorts of pearl-clutching about how Bill and Hillary did/didn’t handle things in the past. It all came down to the whole “optics” thing – which is the very definition of noise.

I refuse to get caught up in that nonsense because there are some signal issues that I’m interested in hearing about. For example, I need to know how strongly Clinton will fight off Wall Street attempts to gut the Dodd/Frank reforms. Her past hawkishness towards Iran and her recommendation as Secretary of State that we send troops into Syria raise all sorts of questions for me about how she would handle the ongoing unrest in the Middle East. I’m also very interested in things like her thoughts about the war on drugs, criminal justice reform and what kind of people she would nominate to the Supreme Court or important positions like Attorney General.

Those are the places Democrats should be pushing Clinton. Relying on either the media or a primary challenger to do that for us means abdicating our responsibility.

I’m hearing some Democrats say that they are dispirited by what has been happening these last couple of weeks over the whole email nonsense. But what is dispiriting to me is how poorly so many Democrats have responded to this non-scandal when we have an awful lot of important stuff to talk about.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.