Friday, January 4, 2008

Concerning Concessions

John Edwards and Hillary Clinton gave us two very interesting, very different concession speeches. Both have reflected the candidates' style throughout this campaign.

First, Edwards offered up a shout-fest not unlike Howard Dean's infamous post-Iowa speech/scream. At one point, Johnny started to list the states that his campaign would continue on in, and I sat waiting for a "Yeeeargh!" Alas, it did not come. But, nonetheless, the tone of the speech was as combative as Edwards has been throughout this whole thing. Indeed, one would not have even thought this was a concession speech given Edwards' discussion of success and lack of mention of that guy who actually succeeded. Yes, in a move that showed Mr. Edwards' lack of class, he did not congratulate Barack Obama on his victory. After he said "thank you" and "God bless you," he finally referenced his loss (after being reminded by Elizabeth, apparently), saying rather smugly "Thanks for second place." While this speech won't go down in history like Dean's did, I think it effectively marks the end of Edwards political future, at least as far as the presidency is concerned.

Hillary gave a much calmer, and really much better concession speech. She did not speak of her own success (or lack of) like Edwards, but spoke of the success of the Democratic party. The Democratic turnout was amazing (twice what it was in 2004), showing that Democrats are excited about this election. Republican turnout was lackluster. If "purple" states like Iowa can get high Democrat turnouts in November as well, this election will be in the bag. Anyway, Hillary spoke of "us" as Democrats while still maintaining her own personal image. This dichotomy has defined her campaign (and seems to have stumped it). She is trying to suggest that all Democrats are alike and a Democratic victory in November is all that matters. At the same time, though, she is trying to suggest that she is the best candidate. It is rather confusing. It is if she were saying "These results show a bright light at the end of the tunnel for Democrats, even if that isn't me. But, it should be me!" I think her split personalities (i.e. "We're all the same" v. "I'm better!" and "I'm the candidate of change" v. "I'm the establishment candidate") will be her undoing. She needs a unifying theme, and she needs it quick.

I'm not ready to predict an Obama victory in New Hampshire yet (indeed, if I had to make a prediction today, I'd give it to Hillary), but I think Hillary is in trouble.

And that makes me happy. This reminds me, I don't know if I've ever expounded why I favor Obama. So let me do that.

I have a rather unorthodox view of the presidency. While I recognize the great power that comes with the office, I also recognize that a lot of that power is symbolic, and that power isn't simply to be put to use in "getting stuff done." The president isn't simply the Chief Politico. Rather, he (or she) is (or should be) a symbol of America. A good president should be a unifier, and if that means getting less stuff done, I'm okay with that. The president is given the duty of setting the tone for our political discourse. Edwards' "I want to steal everyone else's power!" and Hillary's "I can do things... lots of things!" are not representative of a high and lofty political discourse. Sure, Obama may be naive, and he may lack experience, but I don't think that is important. I think presidents should be a bit naive. Setting our goals too high allows us to constantly try harder and not stagnate. And experience really isn't that important. As long as a president picks experienced advisers, he'll be fine. I trust that Obama won't surround himself with morons like Bush did.

Look, if Hillary gets the nod, I'll vote for her. Ditto on Edwards. Their politics really aren't different enough for me to base a primary-level decision on "issues." So, I have to base the decision on something else. So, I've based it on tone and personality. I think Obama would be the most presidential (I use this word in a higher way than when people say "Oh, Mitt Romney looks presidential.") of the candidates. He would give us hope for change, even if that change doesn't come. Hope is important in politics. When a top tier candidate like Hillary thinks that renouncing hope in politics is a good strategy, something is wrong.

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