There Are Worse Things Than False Hope

I’m fascinated by the way the Clinton campaign is dealing with the challenge of changing their message in the four days between Iowa and New Hampshire. Hillary’s newest line seems to be that all three Democratic candidates are agents of “change” (anyone tired of hearing that word yet?), but that she’s the only one who can actually accomplish that change. It’s a twist on her “demand it, hope for it, work hard for it” line, but her rhetoric doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny.

For example, here’s a revealing line in her latest stump speech from Ezra Klein :

Clinton now has this line where she says (slight paraphrase, as I’m hand-transcribing), “Let’s be serious about change. Change isn’t voting for the PATRIOT Act then criticizing it. Change isn’t saying you won’t take lobbyist money then appointing a lobbyist as head of your New Hampshire campaign. Change isn’t bragging about passing the Patient’s Bill of Rights when it never passed. Change isn’t talking about your opposition to the Iraq War then voting for more funding.”

Those are attacks on, in order, Edwards, Obama, Edwards, and Obama. But what’s interesting about the charges is the direction in which they point. On each of the relevant issues there, Hillary is on the wrong side of her own rhetoric. She voted for the PATRIOT Act. She voted for the war. She takes lobbyist money and defends their contributions. And she voted for the PBR, and also couldn’t pass it. None are issues that give her any advantage.

An even more telling example of the pot calling the kettle black is this contradiction in Hillary’s depressing (as Obama put it) claim that Obama and Edwards offer “false hopes”.

I suppose that in pure campaigning terms, Kevin Drum’s right and Hillary Clinton’s complaints about Barack Obama and John Edwards raising “false hopes” was a gaffe. But I think it’s an interesting theme, and sort of wish she would explore it in a more rigorous and thorough way.

The trouble is that as is, she’s raising essentially the same hopes as her competitors — hopes of fundamental change in health care and energy policy…It’s true that high aspirations and inspiring rhetoric won’t produce fundamental policy shifts. It’s also true that getting really outraged won’t produce fundamental policy shifts. But neither will Clinton’s years of experience — you can see it in her own list of legislative accomplishments as Senator and First Lady, there’s just nothing in there of remotely the sort of scale that she’s now promising.

So if it’s true that Edwards and Obama are raising false hopes, then so is she.

While some may consider Hillary’s “false hopes” line a gaffe, the truly depressing thing seems to be that it’s a pretty accurate reflection of her feelings.

Hillary was asked about Obama’s rejoinder that there’s something vaguely un-American about dismissing hopes as false, and that it doesn’t jibe with the careers of figures like like John F. Kennedy and King.

“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act,” Clinton said. “It took a president to get it done.”

Ugghhh….this reminds me of the Mr. Show sketch in which they tried to solicit hate mail :

When David Cross said “Abraham Lincoln, a white man, set them free” it was satire, but that barely seems worse that Hillary’s denigration of the work of Martin Luther King Jr. by insisting “It took a president to get it done”. I don’t think this is some sign of latent racism on her part, but further proof that she’ll say just about anything to get elected. Is it any wonder why Hillary’s campaign is in a tailspin?