January 19, 2008

Ronald Wilson Obama and Hillary Rodham Nixon?

Obama's recent positive mention of Ronald Reagan induced an ah-ha moment for me. He (Obama) wants to be as sunny and optimistic as Reagan in order to go directly to the American people as president and go over the heads of Republican congressmen and women.

Democratic congressmen feared Reagan in his first term because of his popularity with the American people so they gave him a blank check on everything but cutting domestic spending (showing that the third rail of American politics is touching our 'entitlements').

Republican congressman would fear Obama in his first term because of his popularity, while no Republican congressman would have to fear Hillary going over their heads directly to the American people because Hillary, like Bill, will have trouble getting 50% of the vote.

Hillary and McCain are both "realists" while Reagan and Obama were/are dreamers. Realists and dreamers both bring advantages and disadvantages. The singular magic of Ronald Reagan was that he was a dreamer who dreamt of reality! When he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" it seemed mere fancy until the wall fell.

George W. Bush is a dreamer who successfully sought regime change in Iraq - but then lost touch with reality as Iraq failed. McCain, a realist, understood long before Bush that Rumsfeld had to go. McCain's early support of the surge is a credit to his willingness to deal with things as they are. Realists are great at discerning when something is broken, but often fail to fix the problem, or go on to break it worse. Hillary was a realist in '92 in seeing that health care as broken, but then tried to break it worse. McCain saw campaign finance as broken, but then broke it worse with McCain/Feingold.

The parallels between Hillary and Richard Nixon are surprising: both willing to cut corners, both paranoid ('enemy's list'/ 'vast right wing conspiracy'), both possessing extra ambition to make up for their unlikability, and both political realists. She understands she has to tack right on foreign policy issues just as Nixon knew he would have to tack left on domestic issues. Nixon didn't care about domestic policy just as Hillary doesn't care about foreign policy; both were willing to sacrifice their party's pieties in order to get what they really wanted to get done: universal health care for Hillary, beating the Communists for Nixon (his reaching out to China was to keep the USSR on its toes and triangulate the two powers).

Hillary isn't as corrupt or paranoid as Nixon was in the White House, but could well be as corrupt and paranoid as Nixon was before he entered the White House. She appears to have more Christian faith than Nixon so hopefully that will keep her from re-enacting Nixon's corrupt presidency.

So of the big four who have a realistic chance to win the general election in '08 - Hillary, McCain, Giuliani and Obama - all are sizeable gambles from the conservative perspective. Hillary would make nice and horse-trade with Congress in order to take us down the road to universal health care and eventual financial ruin (while possibly screwing up foreign policy as badly as Nixon did domestic), Obama will try to do for liberalism what Reagan did with conservatism (i.e. make it popular again), and McCain is a wild-card who could fix things or break them much worse.

But there's no more fundamental issue than the life issue; forty-three million dead children is a devastating critique of what we find important, or rather unimportant, in our society. Of the four who have a real chance to win the election, only one, McCain, has a smidgeon of recognition at what we are doing.

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