Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hillary and MoveOn

I posted the following as a comment to this Ezra Klein posting:

MoveOn's ad was shameful. All things being equal, I would count failure to disavow something like this as a serious ding to a candidate's character and they'd probably lose my vote. But things are far from equal.

I gave Bush the benefit of the doubt for a long time because he so obviously tried to do what he thought was the right thing, even to his own political detriment. I still think the guy has a certain amount of personal courage. But he's incompetent. He hires poorly. He can't manage his team. He can't communicate his ideas effectively. He can't negotiate. He can't lead.

So I'll be demoting the "character" criterion quite a way down the list this election in favor of competence and leadership. Hillary Clinton may have little executive experience but she is obviously competent and tough and subtle and hires superb people and never makes the same mistake twice. That puts her miles ahead of her Democratic opponents and some distance ahead of the Republican field as well.

But, on the competence scale, her failure to disavow the ad is in some respects more troubling than it would be as a character issue. The ad was so politically stupid that one has to question whether MoveOn really deserves a place at the grownups' table. That ad is guaranteed to be hung around Clinton's neck when she competes in the general election. All Clinton had to do was issue a tepid, "no big deal but not helpful" disavowal and she'd be off the hook with little damage done.

She didn't. It's a rare lapse in judgment.

I am Clinton's target voter. I'm a right-of-center, non-ideological, small-"l" libertarian pragmatist. I usually vote Republican. If she gets the votes of people like me, she'll be President. Right now, despite only trusting her to act consistently in her own best interest, Clinton has my vote come the general election. But the MoveOn debacle lost her a little ground with me. And character issues had nothing to do with it.

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