Hillary Pillory

The strange bipartisan embrace of Sen. Clinton for president.

As the focus of the political establishment goes beyond the midterm elections to 2008, John Dickerson offers his take on the Republican hype surrounding Hillary Rodham Clinton—is it fear or fantasy?

realblackfin notes that Hillary’s negatives are huge, making it questionable whether “her base support can over-ride her negatives.” -badkitty- is of the camp believing that Hillary’s candidacy is a way to motivate demoralized repubs and neocons. Mark14 bids a wistful “Goodbye to democracy. Hello oligarchy” in his prediction of Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton, Bush … in our electoral future.

In an interesting analysis here, mallardsballad proposes that we treat Hillary as

a brand. A powerful brand that conjures powerful emotions to her faithful base, her base that feels betrayed and to her enemies. Let’s say she decides to be as inanimate as a brand logo.

Even without doing anything she’d still be the front runner of her party. I would hardly credit that as her political genius…For example, she is now percieved as a great moderate, a bridge builder, when all she’s doing is garnering votes from people, which any common politician has to do.

It’s like McDonald’s introducing ‘healthy’ salads. Go a little against the perceived brand and all of sudden it’s an extreme make-over. McDonald’s has some of the best and expensive talent create this image, and so does Hillary…And Hillary doesn’t have to do much. The Republican brand looks terrible. Usually a last term President can depend on his VP to run, but good god, why would anyone consider Cheney? The best that the Republican party can come up with is a candidate that has every reason to hate that party establishment. How can you dress up McCain as a person that hasn’t been bought off? That’s desperation in a nutshell.

High oil prices, the disaster of Iraq, percieved corruption via lobbyists, Halliburton, wire tapping, these Republican P.R. disasters can’t possibly be attributed to the genius of Hillary. But I think she’ll take it.

That’s the beauty of brands. Nike, a cheap piece of fabric and plastic made itself the pinnacle of athleticism. Hillary can surely be the brand of the ant-incompetent. It’s also helpful that she is an intelligent woman. She can be the anti-Bush, when opinion of Mr. Bush is at an all time low. She doesn’t have to lift a finger for all of this to be matched to her advantage.

ElephantGun reproaches Dickerson for being way late to the Hillary game:

Republicans have been talking about a Hillary nomination since 2004. Sean Hannity advised Democrats not to nominate Hillary Clinton in 2008 on election night 2004. Rush and Bill O’Reilly routinely obsess about a Hillary candidacy as well. By now, right-wingers have evolved a complex emotional life around Hillary. They hate the name and get fired up over the 1994 health package and Tammy Wynette, but they respect Hillary as a formidable and successful adversary. I don’t think it would be too far off the mark to say that the right has a “love-hate” relationship for Hillary. Hillary also represents a particularly right-wing sense of their own doom. People on the right genuinely fear a Hillary presidency, but are also developing a tragic sense that a Hillary victory in 2008 will be their particular price to pay for the disasters of the Bush years.

Discussion of a Hillary candidacy has been non-stop among Democrats and the left as well. I started posting (favorably) about a Hillary candidacy fourteen months ago and have been participating in any number of heated discussions about Hillary since then. Republican Slate blogger Mickey Kaus has kept up a hostile commentary on Hillary as well.

But the right-wing hasn’t created the Hillary candidacy. The thing that gave Hillary Clinton the gravitas to be a credible presidential candidate was her conduct during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Hillary managed to appear steadfast, dignified, and mature throughout the crisis, and avoid the perils of public petulance and whiny martyrdom. Hillary’s approval numbers zoomed during the last two years of Bill’s administration. It was after Hillary started to look like presidential timber that the combination of right-wing obsessiveness and her own conduct as Senator have magnified her credibility.

Dickerson hasn’t been following Hillary’s numbers at all. She’s a shoe-in for re-election and will probably do well in conservative Upstate New York as well as the City. The last national numbers I saw were that her support among Democrats was at 45% and that 40-50% of the voting public thought they might vote for her. Combine those numbers with her experience on the presidential campaign trail, mountains of money, and a crack staff and you have a formidable presidential candidate. The Democratic elite in Washington doesn’t accept this and I imagine that Dickerson is speaking from the Establishment point of view. The anti-war left doesn’t accept it and feminists don’t accept it. However, Hillary will be a strong favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

It is the likeliness of a Hillary nominantion that sparked the speculation of a Condi Rice candidacy and has led the Bush administration to bury the hatchet with John McCain. However, McCain looks progressively smaller (literally, he seems shorter to me) the more he temporizes with the right-wing. His chances of winning the Republican nomination are far less than Hillary’s chances of being the Democratic nominee. Given that Hillary is more self-controlled on the campaign trail, she’d have to be rated a slight early favorite over McCain.

Finally, in this excellent post, GavaGuy enumerates the strategic reasons for GOP hopes of a Hillary ‘08 campaign:

First and foremost Republicans believe she can be beaten.

a) She’s a she. She’s the most credible female candidate to ever run for the position of President. Still - there will be some slice of the population that will hold her sex against her - and a slice of that slice may have otherwise been willing to consider voting for a male Democrat.

b) Regardless of the details of her record as a Senator, there is a “pre-history” which can be used against her. She served in her husband’s administration and can be painted as left of centre. This can be used to sway voters as well.

c) But not only do Republicans think they can win some swing voters, perhaps more importantly, they see the selection of Hillary as galvanizing their own support. Opposition to Hillary will bring out more Republican voters - or so the theory goes.

Second, there are other reasons for Republican wishes for Hillary. Defeating Hillary Clinton would be a defeat of Bill Clinton by proxy. Politicians are, if anything, competitive. The chance of striking a proxy blow to the former President remains enticing.

Third, Hillary has been clearly the front runner. Republicans know this and aren’t about to come out and hope for anyone else. It would look like fear of Hillary - and good fighters no not to show fear.

Hillary’s run will undoubtedly be history making. The U.S. is perhaps the only major Western nation to not have had a female leader. But Republicans aren’t necessarily being stupid in pinning their hopes on having her as the Democratic candidate.

The debate is alive and kicking over in Politics Fray. AC3:10pm PDT

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Twin Music Box articles—Jody Rosen’s dissection of the “rockism” phenomenon and John Cook’s defense of Stephin Merritt against Sasha Frere-Jones’s ongoing accusations of racism—dominated discussion today on the Fray.

Reading prejudice into other people’s musical tastes is a facile trap, claimsthelyamhound:“if you take the tendency to identify music by its racial characteristics, and the impulse to judge not only the music, but the people who like or dislike said music, in terms [of] race, it’s all too easy to continue digging and find further matters of cultural impropriety.”

In response to Cook’s query “if you don’t like rap, are you a racist?” XXXXX asks if a double standard isn’t at play:

It must be asked why black artists who romanticize criminal culture, like 50cent, are considered artless, socially destructive thugs, but white artists who do the same, like Johnny Cash or The Hold Steady are celebrated for it?

There HAS to be room for this kind of artistic expression, but with people like Young Jeezy rapping openly about his life as a drug pusher, where is the line where we are rewarding and encouraging actual criminal behavior???

That being said, I tend to believe that at the bottom of the pop music barrel are those that cluelessly parody this “thug culture” and shoot at easy targets. People like Eminem.

For Supersonic, however, like/dislike of rap is a fundamentally an aesthetic question that goes beyond race:

Do I discount 90% of mainstream rap music? Yeah, but so does Kanye West. 90% of mainstream rock is crap as well. To me, music is music, and the “rockist” point of view of actually having a large hand in creating the work you perform long predates rock and roll. It’s inherent in musical tradition itself. The anti-rockists take the position that refusing to value lazy lyrics and prepackaged performing artists makes us “rockists” snobs, and even goes to the point of calling us “racists.”

I take the same approach to whatever genre of music I’m listening. Be it classical, jazz, rock, dance, or hip-hop. I like creativity and originality. I value good hip-hop production just as I value good rock instrumentation. However, most commercial rap loses me with the awfulness of the lyrics. I think the whole system that promotes the type of music expressed in much of mainstream rap (about blunts, bitches, money and murder) is a lot more racist than any rockist is. It’s perpetuated by record executives pandering to the lowest common denominator of listeners, namely white teenage boys and girls who like to shake it at the club. Don’t pretend that “My Humps” is art in the same vain as artists as diverse as Kanye West, Morrissey or even Franz Ferdinand. Same deal with the majority of pop music performers. Most of whom wouldn’t even be successful if not for their image.

As in any genre, crap is crap. I doubt there any literary critics complaining that Mary Higgins Clark novels get a raw deal because of prejudice. Scary Movie will not be on anyones 10 best list not because of racism, but because it’s popcorn fare and not serious art. Is most good music produced out there rock? Nope, but a lot of it is. There are also great hip-hop and dance acts out there as well. But don’t toss gernades at people who actually demand a little creativity and feeling in music.

Writing here “from the vantage point of advancing geezer-hood,” Ted_Burke says rockism is nothing new under the sun:

It’s a bit of good fun to read that “rockism” is the hot fire currently sweeping that otherwise dry prairie known as rock criticism , and that arguments about what constitutes “authentic” music versus that which is corporately constructed rages on among the younger writers. Such was the case when I was an active music reviewer between the 70s through the early 90s, and … I have to say presenting rock and roll as the model of “authenticity”, an epicenter of real music made by individuals from unincorporated communities of the soul, is ironic; rock music is turned into an institution, its essence is codified, its purpose for being and what it’s supposed to instill and inspire made into canonical law. 

yggy diagnoses rockism as a backlash against electronics:

Indie rock in New York City today is really code for music played by individual musicians on traditional instruments– guitar, bass, drums. Central to this aesthetic is the feeling that music should have that human element. “Garage rock” takes it a step further by saying, “Music should be minimally produced.” Close your eyes and you should feel like you’re in a garage listening to maybe nothing more than a rehearsal. The distinction that Rosen is trying to lay out here is one of production.

Hip-hop was conceived on turntables and drum machines– not traditional instruments– and therefore hip-hop is an electronic music. Although its recordings were originally made by real musicians, disco was turned into electronic music when DJs invented extended dance mixes.

Pop music since the early ‘80s has gone back and forth over which dominates– music essentially played by bands, or music produced on a computer. Naturally, there’s some overlap in practice, but one of the two styles will always come to the forefront. Brittney Spears and Beyonce have a greater affinity with hip-hop and disco; Jack Johnson and U2 have a greater affinity with rock.

Who’s right– rockism or poptimism? Luckily in the American pop music cannon, listeners never have to choose.

Anse offers another theory, citing an eternal distrust of intellectualism as

the reason for this “rockism” bull. Rock and roll has forever been a bit suspicious of anything that appears academic or intellectual; there’s that whole fear of being labeled a fraud or a geek, and for a genre that romanticizes rebellion, that just doesn’t jive. I think this is also why politically-charged music gets a pass; folks can sound smart by spouting their political views, and since it’s always framed within the context of rebellion, it’s okay.

I am of the opinion that if you’re going to risk failure, better to so so while attempting to be intelligent. Too many rock fans front this “I don’t know what’s good, I just love music” crap. I’ve been guilty of it many times, in fact.

Part of the blame ought to rest with music critics themselves. They aren’t really critics, not in the sense that art critics or literary critics are. Rock music writers tend to be glorified fans with really huge record collections. Notice the penchant for comparison in almost all reviews; artists are forever compared to this band or that one, with little attempt to articulate what makes a particular sound significant(not “good” or “bad,” necessarily, but significant).

Some attempts have been made to bring some intellectualism to rock criticism, but the perpetual ironic cynicism that underlies most all discussions of music these days tends to play them down it seems. When I once noted my enthusiasm on this board for Greil Marcus’ book Lipstick Traces, I could almost see the eyes roll in the responses I got. Hey, if you have a legitimate beef with the book, fine, but why accuse him of pretentiousness? That tossed-off I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude is a bigger pose than anything these days.

Does your iPod need some updating? Be sure to consult jmsr525’s top 100 “best songs from 1955 to 2001” before putting together that poptimist playlist. AC  … 6:28pm PDT

Monday, May 8, 2006

Dahlia Lithwick’s analysis of the competing arguments used by defenders and opponents of death by legal injection—a predictably hot-button issue—brought forth some less-than-predictable responses in the Jurisprudence fray.

Polpro provides this startling account of four executions he has witnessed “from various vantage points” while working for his state’s attorney general:

…the first time I witnessed an execution, I stood next to the executioner as he fulfilled his legal duty and killed an inmate who richly deserved his fate.

Unlike television and movies, and unlike the lurid descriptions of popular media, there was a business-like approach to the proceedings. A specialized team of correctional officers led the condemned man in, who was shackled and handcuffeed with belly chains.

They placed him on the table, unlocked his handcuffs, removed the belly chains and shackles, and then the team strapped him to the table with modified automobile safety belts–each member attaching one belt.

Their elapsed time in the chamber–less than a minute. Two medical technicians then enter the chamber and apply the IV-line. The line itself leads into the wall below a one-way mirror. Behind the mirror, in a room smaller than most linen closets, perhaps six feet long and 3 feet wide, is the executioner.

In front of the executioner on a table are three syringes–each holding one of the drugs in the capital punishment cocktail.

After the director has done his duty: read the warrant, listened to the last words, and signaled the executioner, the executioner then injects, in relatively quick succession, each of the three drugs.

On both occasions where I actually witnessed the condemned man die, I watched for signs of pain or discomfort–and saw none. On both occasions, the only sign that I could see from six feet away was that breathing lessened and then stopped…There is no sense of jubilation. There is no sadistic exultation about the fate of man who was living a half hour before who is now dead. There is some satisfaction that everyone did their jobs in a professional manner. The tone is somber. There is reverant silence for the awful but necessary thing that has just happened…The current system is not perfect–but it does the job in a fair and just manner. You can’t ask for more than that.

aroyfaderman believes that Lithwick has seriously misdiagnosed the opposition to lethal injection from death-penalty opponents:

If, indeed, it was a purely cynical and strategic move, it would be a stupid one as well…trying to find a less cruel method of execution will not speed along the drive to abolish it entirely…

Total elimination of the death penalty in the U.S. might be a noble goal, but it is not acheivable in the near future. Pointing out serious problems with executions that make them more excruciating than they need to be, in hopes of at least sparing some suffering, is an attainable goal, near-term. Reducing the harm of the executions that are going to take place in the relatively near future (and it’s an unchangable fact that they will) is worthwhile in and of itself.

In this lengthy post, FritzGerlich examines execution from a constitutional standpoint:

The state does not have to guarantee a condemned man a painless death. Nor does a constitutional issue arise simply because there is a difference of opinion about how much pain a given method may involve. There is never going to be a single method of execution that is beyond question that way (for the simple reason that none of us knows who has not experienced it). I would prefer being shot or decapitated to being gassed or injected with chemicals, but many might have other preferences. The Eighth Amendment doesn’t come into play until the state’s choice of a method is so bizarre that serious questions arise about its motive.

For yerevan, the real question here “ought to be the level of transparency, or lack thereof in the administration of the death penalty”:

Since the execution of a human being is a critical part of our juidicial process, it most certainly should be reviewed by the public on a routine basis. We can watch the trial, but not the carrying out of the sentence, and we allow a handful of “witnesses” to stand in our shoes to view our legal system’s handiwork. There should be a time slot once a month on all public television stations as well as public access cable, for a roundup of executions. It should be carried at the later end of prime time. Death is never dignified - it is just death, and we do not owe the condemned any special consideration in this regard. If it is a public event paid for by the taxpayers, then the public should have the right to see how it is administered. Then we can determine for ourselves as voters if we want to carry on with this process. The only way to make an informed decision is to put the process in the sunlight for everyone to see - how else will we be able to make a judgment as to whether or not the process is humane or barbaric? By international transparency standards, Iran is more transparent then the United States when it comes to the administration of the death penalty. They execute people in the public square on a fairly routine basis.

Similarly, kolmogorov feels that the emphasis on the means of execution is misplaced:

The real cruelty of execution in America today is, I imagine, the excrutiating wait, especially in those cases where the prisoner repeatedly thinks he is going to die today only to be pulled out at the last moment by another appeal or legal manouver.

Regarding physical pain, lots of people live with pain, the pain of surgery and chemo, for example, rather than face death. Facing one’s death is, I imagine, almost always more painful than the actual death itself. So from my view, the whole discussion of the pain of the actual death moment is totally misguided. The condemned themselves would no doubt choose a fair amount of pain over death if they could.

I concur that the practice has been shaped mostly by the desire not to upset the witnesses. I think the more sinister part of this fact is that the witnesses include all of us voters who might find capital punishment a little less appealing if there were a lot of blood involved, if the brutality were made plain to see.

For a photographic illustration of “Torture and Death Penalty Instruments From the Middle Ages to the Industrial Era” (a traveling exhibit in Europe during the 1980s), look here. AC7:10pm PDT

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Emily Bazelon’s personal saga explaining why she gave away Shadow the family dog generated perhaps the most vituperative, moralizing outburst from fraysters to date, with Kylee proclaiming herself “appalled by Slate narrative” and 8K9Kids giving Bazelon “an education on commitment.”

A few scattered voices helped to counterbalance the venom. Axlette agrees that giving up Shadow was the right choice under the circumstances. kmm3 offers these words of support:

After reading some of the awful messages you received condemning you for finding a new home for your dog, I felt compelled to write my two cents worth and let you know you are not a bad person or a bad mother.

Read more about her personal experience with pet adoption here.

To judge from the “14 pages of responses to your latest family trauma,” bright_virago thanks Bazelon for inspiring readers to recognize that, in the contract between humans and pets, sometimes

it’s time for us to part. We no longer have it in us to be their caretakers. Someone else might, and would give them more attention than we do, and we are praying that we can find that place for them. It’s not abandonment, it’s adoption. Will someone please tell me why pet adoption is such an awful thing?

For SallyRyan, too, Emily’s story has helped her reconcile a similar decision:

We have a small backyard and a very hyper dog. As much as we tried (and boy did we try) we could not keep her contained in our yard. She became a nuisance in our neighborhood and caused problems with other dogs. Our neighbors kept her during the day when she got out and both my husband and I were at work. We couldn’t afford a doggy daycare and to be honest it became frustrating that we couldn’t even let her out in the morning to go to bathroom without an escape. We gave her to a family on Saturday (with massive tears flowing) that had a HUGE backyard and ten foot fences (lets see her climb that!) and other dogs to play with. Her new people just called to say that she seems happy although sad that she is not with us at night. I think over time all of us will heal and my husband and I learned a lesson the size of the yard will determine what bread of dog!

doglovah calls Bazelon’s attackers a judgmental group:

I’ve worked closely with rescue groups, and all three of my dogs are rescues, and I believe that every one has been overwhelmed by something in their life, and Emily’s happened to be the dog. She did the most responsible thing that she could other than keep him, which was to give him to good home. And why is keeping him the best thing for the dog? He obviously feels like he has a place now, as Ed has given him training, and established his role in the pack. If she had not taken the dog 7 years ago, who knows where Shadow would have ended up? She saved him when he was two, and gave him a better home when he was nine. Most dogs don’t get chances like that.

For a closer look at the prolific outpouring of opinions, visit the Family Fray. AC4:35pm

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Utek1, writing from downtown Los Angeles, provides an excellent description of and reflection upon yesterday’s march:

All day long downtown Los Angeles has been a mass of honking cars and cheering people, families and children mostly, holding American flags, with a few Mexican flags (and what I’m guessing are Central and South American flags) for color. Many businesses are closed, and the rest seem to be half full. The mood of the marchers is more jubilant than angry. There is no question that, in this town and on this day, the demonstration has proven what it set out to do, which is to show that there are lots of Latinos in this country, and that they are a force to be reckoned with. As Pete Wilson discovered, politicians cross them at their peril.

I wish that this was the beginning of a return to the Democratic party’s roots in labor activism, and a renewed power of unions in general, but I don’t think so. Immigration reform is an issue that speaks primarily to immigrants and a few Pat Buchanan xenophobes. It doesn’t have the mass appeal as issues like the 40-hour work week once did.

Case in point: the gigantic demonstrations a few weeks ago in Los Angeles that sparked this whole movement came as a complete shock to the city’s Anglo-speaking population. There was no advance warning, as the demonstration was the product of an appeal by Spanish radio DJ’s. Half a million people turned out to protest and the rest of the city had no clue what was happening. It just wasn’t on the political radar of most Angelenos.

Today’s gathering was better advertised, but from what I can see, it still hasn’t attracted the same kind of cross-cultural support that the Civil Rights marches did, or that old time labor rallies once had. Blacks and whites alike are ambivalent on illegal immigration, which is a complicated issue without easy solutions. I just can’t see it used as a rallying cry for anyone not directly affected by immigration problems.

The ironic thing is, it is precisely because of the menial jobs that immigrants are forced to take that their unions have become powerful. No one can outsource fruit pickers or janitors or gardeners or chambermaids the way factories can be shipped off to China or software code can be written in India. They are site-specific, labor intensive jobs that are immune to the ravages of globalization. So the service employees unions have been thriving while other unions have withered into impotence.

But again, the low-skilled, low-wage nature of these jobs make them poor candidates for leading to a resurgence of labor unions as a whole. In the past, steelworkers and autoworkers could fight for wages and benefits that put them in the middle class. In contrast, many illegal immigrants are fighting for the right just to be given a poverty-level minimum wage. Again, this is not a fight that middle class Americans can join with the hopes of bettering their own lives.

Personally, I don’t have much stake in the immigration debate, and I don’t know what the right policy is. I understand why Americans would have problems with people coming here illegally, and I can also sympathize with those who have risked so much just for the chance to work. I can’t pretend to offer a solution, although it seems to me that the proposals which would give “Guest Workers” the right to work for slave wages while denying them any chance at citizenship is the worst of both worlds, indentured servitude for the new millenium.

I think in the long run, what demonstrations like today’s show the rest of the country is how large a block Latinos have become. I remember moving to LA, my biggest shock was how brown the population was. From tv and movies, you would think that LA is a white-bread world of Valley Girls and surfer dudes. In Malibu and Beverly Hills, perhaps, but in the real world of LA County, the highest rated radio and tv programs are all Spanish, and you can travel for miles without hearing English spoken. Since the time of Father Serra, California has been New Spain, not New England. And its not like the Anglos can complain, having stolen California from the Mexicans 150 years ago. So in some ways, todays marches are just a blast from the past, a honking, hooting celebration of Latino pride. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

You can join the discussion of the May Day March in our History Lesson FrayGA … 12:10am