Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ready? Ask me later. I got some questions first.

I don't hate Hillary Clinton.

This may surprise you as I seem to get in a dig every chance I get.  I think she was a good advocate and Senator and an OK (but not great) Secretary of State. I'm confident she could do The Big Job, just as Joe Biden could. If she were the Democratic nominee, as seems likely, I'd vote for her without reservation, which is more than I did for one past "inevitable" nominee.

The inevitability push is starting again. Clinton was a strong but imperfect frontrunner in 2005-2007; now she's the strongest frontrunner for an open seat presidency since before the modern nominating system. I actually counted back and I think the last nominee this inevitable was probably Ulysses Grant.

Some Iowans are jumping on the inevitability bandwagon in a couple weeks with a Ready For Hillary rally on Saturday the 25th in Des Moines. (Remember when that was Republican caucus day?) We won't see Clinton HERSELF, of course; see countdown clock on the right. Maybe that would be over the top and too much of a media circus, though it's fair to note that Republican candidates are already visiting.

No, the big guests are surrogates, and LOCAL surrogates at that. There's prominent 2007 names from HillaryWorld and BarackWorld: Teresa Vilmain, Jerry Crawford, Jackie Norris, Bonnie Campbell... and, interesting,  `08 Obama backer Tyler Olson, last seen exiting the governor's race.

That's a pretty heady crowd for a little blogger with a dumb hat to position himself against. But that's not exactly what I'm doing. I'm just trying to stick up for our state and our open process, and my instinctive reaction to "inevitability" is Bill Bradley.

This ongoing Hillary critique isn't about Iowa's God given right to caucus first, even though I rant about First In The Nation to the point where I may do more harm than good. I think Iowa is an imperfect but good system, a system that's done a good job on the Democratic side, and until recently in the other party too, for four decades. I know that at some point that door will close, and that the scale of national office will be forever more too big for a retail component.

I just don't want to slam it shut with my own vote.

It's clear from semi-attributed quotes in prominent books, and from private talks with her backers even here in Iowa, that Clinton World in general, and to some extent the candidate herself, had a negative attitude toward caucus processes in general, and Iowa in particular. It bordered on contempt for Iowa's institutions and political culture, blaming Iowa rather than a too imperial, too careful, too flawed campaign and one fatally flawed vote in the Senate.

And it's more than just process. It's power and policy. I know we're choosing the president of the whole county and leader of the free world-  but that includes our little corner of it. When the big spreadsheet is crunched, are Iowa's needs and concerns going to be weighed on their merits, or on the 2008 results?

And we know there's a Big Spreadsheet. Every politician remembers their friends and enemies, but as Politico writes this week, Clinton World data entered and quantified it. And until I learn otherwise, I can only assume that my entire state, with the exception of the Vilsacks and Leonard Boswell, earned a big red 7, a special level of shit list reserved for the worst "traitors."

Even I'm not asking for an immediate in person mea culpa in front of the Butter Cow, though she'd certainly be welcome. That countdown clock is a joke of rhetorical exaggeration and the fact that I'm having to explain it means that people aren't getting it. (I'm leaving it up anyway.)

But before I'm Ready For Hillary, I need some reassurance. A public kind word for Iowa from someone in the inner circle, or even positive indications on or off record from some of the Iowa names who'll be at that Ready rally, would be useful right now. Without that, I'm left planning for worse case scenarios.

I have issue concerns, too. I don't think she's the right person to say and do the domestically difficult things needed to address lasting peace in the Middle East. Though in fairness I don't see ANY mainstream American politician able to discuss Palestine-Israel policy in terms I'd be happy with. Which is a big part of the problem in that whole part of the world. Economically, I don't want to see the Democratic Party go the DLC direction on domestic economic policy that it did in the 1990s.

Despite the Hillary Clock, it's very early. I may get there. But right now I'm not yet Ready.

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