07.11.08 Spare Change for Hillary?
NY Times – Wednesday, July 9 – page A1: OBAMA DONORS AREN’T RUSHING TO AID CLINTON.
Ok. Raise your hand if this story surprised you. I don’t know about you, but I certainly haven’t had my checkbook out, itching to give money to one of the wealthiest people in the country who managed to squander (SQUANDER!) tens of millions of dollars in a quixotic quest that (after about early March) she had no chance of winning!*
*This assumes that the rules of the Democratic Party, rules that Clinton had heartily endorsed when they were made, still applied, i.e., that delegates would determine the winner, not popular vote, or big-state votes, or white people’s votes, or non-caucus votes, or votes from disqualified states, or votes from people with last names beginning with the letter Q, or whatever the move-the-goalposts flavor of the moment was.
Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. Let’s review.
The year 2006. Hillary Clinton in a tough race to keep her Senate seat, spends $36 million. All of that is true except for the “in a tough race” part. Clinton’s opponent was little known John Spencer, who spent all of $5 million and got trounced 61-37%.
Clinton not only came in first place the election. She also eclipsed the next highest spender nationwide (Pennsylvania’s Rick Santorum in a losing cause) by $12 million.
$36 million down the tubes — and not shared with any, more needy, Democratic candidates around the country — in order to win an election with no more than token opposition. Can you say “selfish?” Can you say “squander”?
Flash forward to 2008. I was laughing when the stories started to come out in February that the Clinton campaign had already blown through all its money, while Obama still had tens of millions in the bank. I loved hearing about expensively catered affairs for Clinton campaign workers (while Obama’s volunteers made do with sandwiches and chips).
In the process of a headlong dash to blow through as much money as possible to keep a campaign operating after all it could do was to burn the inevitable nominee, the poor Clintons managed to pump over $12 million of their own money into the losing cause.
“Poor” Clintons? Yeah, at one time: when Bill was earning in the low $30s as governor of Arkansas, perhaps. But (we found out this spring) the post-presidency period has been kind to Bill and Hill, raising them to elite status, with combined wealth of nearly $110 million.
After Clinton herself, the campaign’s next biggest debtor is discredited political strategist Mark Penn and his firm. This is the guy who pushed the “inevitability strategy” that killed any chance for Clinton after she didn’t deliver the (supposedly) inevitable knock-out blow to Obama on Super Tuesday. This is the guy who never thought the campaign was negative enough or that Clinton needed to show any human side. Everyone hates Mark Penn: Hillaryites who know that substantial blame for their loss rests on his shoulders and Obamamaniacs who saw his manipulative, scheming brand of politics as the ultimate enemy of “change we can believe in” (notwithstanding that many of us no longer believe in that change – see my earlier post).
So, let me see. If I write a check to the Clinton campaign at this moment, the odds are that the money will either land in the pockets of a couple who are hardly poor enough to merit compensation for their own lack of budget discipline, or those of a scumbucket political operative. Very enticing indeed.
Of course, I really do feel badly for all the little vendors who are still waiting to be paid by Clinton: the couriers, florists, caterers, etc. But I don’t see why the ultra-wealthy Clinton isn’t simply writing them checks.
No way. Not when the Democratic nominee and his campaign and the whole party and the whole country can be held hostage. That wouldn’t be the Clinton way. Extortion is. Hence, the subtle and unsubtle threats from Clintonites that they just might not get very enthusiastic about supporting Obama and the party this fall.
Never mind that there is largely a zero-sum game at work here: every minute spent trying to fill Hillary Clinton’s tin cup is a minute not spent raising that money for Obama or myriad other causes. Nearly every dollar tossed in that cup is a dollar not tossed in another cup.
If the extortion principle weren’t operating, no one would give a shit about how much the Clintons owe themselves and Mark Penn. But their threat to let Obama go down has everyone transfixed, sucking the oxygen out of the room and assuring that the enduring questions “what do the Clintons want? “what are the Clintons going to do next?” remain in the limelight.
This is all about narcisism and hubris, about self-interest over the common good. This is Clintonian politics at its best.
PS. Aren’t you glad that Hillary Clinton won’t be managing the federal budget?
©2008 Keith Berner