November 25, 2007

In Punditland, When Bush Fails, Clinton Gets Bashed First

I agree with Matt Yglesis, this oped is the work of a deeply unserious pundit. Mark Halperin notes that no matter how effective George W Bush was as a campaigner, he's a very bad president. But he can't bring himself to say this without the obligatory swipe at Bill Clinton.

For instance, being all things to all people worked wonderfully well for Bill Clinton the candidate, but when his presidency ran into trouble, this trait was disastrous, particularly in the bumpy early years of his presidency and in the events leading up to his impeachment. The fun-loving campaigner with big appetites and an undisciplined manner squandered a good deal of the majesty and power of the presidency, and undermined his effectiveness as a leader. What much of the country found endearing in a candidate was troubling in a president.

Don't you love that? "Squandered a great deal of the majesty and power of the presidency." Nevermind that for most Americans, the Clinton years were very good especially when viewed from the days of Bush.

Halperin simply cannot say something bad about Bush without bashing Clinton first. Furthermore, there is something deeply wrong with a supposed political expert believing that the way someone campaigns is the strongest clue of the way they will govern. Too many of our national pundits are like hammers where every problem is a nail because that is all they are able to see.

As with Mr. Clinton, though, the very campaign strengths that got Mr. Bush elected led to his worst moments in office. Assuredness became stubbornness. His lack of lifelong ambition for the presidency translated into a failure to apply himself to the parts of the job that held less interest for him, often to disastrous effects. The once-appealing life outside of government and public affairs became a far-less appealing lack of experience. And Mr. Bush’s close-knit team has served as a barrier to fresh advice.

So if we for too long allowed ourselves to be beguiled by “What It Takes” — certainly not the author’s fault — what do those of us who cover politics do now? After all, Mr. Cramer’s style of campaign coverage is alluring in an election season that features so many candidates with heroic biographies and successful careers in and out of politics. (Not to mention two wide-open races.)

Mr Halperin is one of the most at fault for pushing the idea that people should not look at the history of the candidate when judging them for this office. After all, those who read the works of Molly Ivins before the 2000 election told him exactly what he would get with a Bush presidency. It's definitely a huge blindspot on his ability to provide relevant perspective on election campaigns. And it's not just Halperin. This Broder-Klein disease of needing to bash Clinton and the Democrats while being taken in by the hagiography of Bush is definitely part of the problem of why we are so screwed right now.

BTW: do not miss the James Fallows piece that Matt pulled out of the archives.

Posted by Mary at November 25, 2007 10:48 AM | US Politics | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

KPRC tapes drones over Houston

Posted by: ccoaler at November 25, 2007 02:43 PM

I'm not surprised someone like Halperin, who famously bent over backward to please conservatives in the last election (he told Hannity that the "next two weeks (before the 2006 midterms) gave ABC News a chance to prove to conservatives that they really understood their grievances") would write such risible stuff.

To him, being fair has always amounted to kicking Democrats in the teeth while giving conservative republicans big sloppy wet kisses. He was embarrassingly needy toward Hugh Hewitt recently, if memory serves.

Posted by: Samuel John Klein at November 25, 2007 05:50 PM

I read that article yesterday and thought it was long past time some "serious" Beltway pundit finally realized that our campaigns are not well constructed to select a good President. As he says "We should examine a candidate’s public record and full life as opposed to his or her campaign performance."

Since the advent of totally media-focused "packaged" campaigns, what great President have we elected? We have had a procession of political savvy or politically lucky winners, none of whom exhibited strong leadership in a rational direction. I can live with a modicum of Clinton bashing if media pundits will stop handicapping the horse race and starting examining the lives, records and policy positions of the candidates.

Posted by: Charles at November 26, 2007 08:23 AM