I watched the “Mitt” documentary. I don’t think it really changed my opinion of Mitt Romney particularly — perhaps because I’m from Massachusetts and already had a strongly held negative opinion about him rather than a vaguely negative opinion based in national media caricatures. I obviously was aware he was a person behind closed doors. That doesn’t have much to do with his bad policies and record.
What I did take away from it was how strongly Mitt Romney believed even in the moment of his (perceived) ‘surprise’ defeat that Pres. Obama was literally destroying the country in fall of “great nations” terms and believed America would reach an irreparable “tipping point” in “5 years” because of Obama’s policies. Mitt’s a relatively moderate and reasonable person, at least by comparison to most national elected Republicans these days, and even he had bought into that notion. (And in the documentary at least, a couple months earlier, Mitt and Ann were passionately discussing tax burdens on small businesses as a reason to win, rather than a perceived need to avert doomsday.) That’s pretty stunning and disturbing.
I think maybe the costs (personal, financial, emotional) of running for office have reached such intense levels that the only way you can convince yourself to keep going through it all is not only to megalomaniacally believe that only you can do the job (as most political candidates have long seemed to believe), but also that the other person will be so bad at it that it will be something the community/state/nation can’t recover from it.
In other words, to run for president these days, you can’t just have a messiah complex but a sincere conviction that the end-times are nigh. Which meshes perfectly with the presently now-mainstreamed (!) thought-currents rippling and roiling through the Republican Party. But even if it didn’t, that kind of divisive framing of campaigns is only going to fuel the toxic cycle that keeps producing worse and worse candidates and leaders at so many levels of government. There will be no good and decent people left on the campaign trail.
The smaller takeaway (as other people have observed) is: Wow, they really were delusional by the final month of the campaign and literally didn’t understand how the electoral math/map was going for them or needed to be handled. To which I would add: Can you imagine a Mitt Romney presidency if the “bubble” around him was that impervious to reality and basic structural facts that politics couldn’t alter?
But in 2015, Clinton is attacking Bernie Sanders for insufficient gun control support. Let’s track the intense flip-flopping, solely meant to destroy rival Democratic nomination candidates, both times.
Now (Washington Post, July 9, 2015):
“I’m going to speak out against the uncontrollable use of guns in our country because I believe we can do better,” Clinton said Tuesday in Iowa City.
A few days earlier, she said in Hanover, N.H.: “We have to take on the gun lobby. . . . This is a controversial issue. I am well aware of that. But I think it is the height of irresponsibility not to talk about it.”
Gun control is one of the few issues on which Clinton has a more left-leaning record than Sanders, who represents a rural, pro-gun-rights state and has voted in the past for legislation to protect the firearms industry. Although Clinton has not attacked Sanders by name, by invoking guns she makes an unspoken contrast.
Despite his mixed voting record, Sanders did support the 2013 background-check bill and assault-weapons ban. And on the stump, he is trying to sound more forceful. He notes that “guns in Chicago and Los Angeles mean a very different thing than guns in Vermont and New Hampshire” but says — as he did two weeks ago in Bow, N.H. — that the next president must “come forward with a common-sense proposal on guns.”
In the Democratic field, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley has the strongest record in favor of gun control. He supported an assault-weapons ban as mayor of Baltimore in the early 2000s and then signed one into law as governor in 2013, along with a suite of gun restrictions that stand as among the nation’s toughest.
Howard Wolfson, for many years a top Clinton aide before going to work for Bloomberg, said Clinton’s avoidance of guns in 2008 should not be mistaken for a lack of interest in gun control.
In Indiana, “Clinton mailing attacks Obama on guns” – Ben Smith for Politico – May 4, 2008
Hillary Clinton has re-opened her sharp attack on Barack Obama’s position on guns, with a mailer in Indiana that seeks to raise questions about him with both supporters and opponents of gun rights.
The mailing — perhaps the sharpest-edged of Clinton’s five negative mail pieces in Indiana — casts him as a typical politician, saying different things to different audiences. It also revives his damaging comments in San Francisco that small town people cling to guns.
The piece is particularly striking coming from Clinton, who has been seen for most of her career as a firm advocate of gun control, but more recently has emerged — without dramatically shifting her stance on specific issues — as a defender of the Second Amendment who fondly recalled being taught to shoot by her grandfather in Scranton.
So which is it?
Is she now the candidate who “told people” in conservative states she “was for the 2nd Amendment, in order to get their votes” as her 2008 mailer alleged of Sen. Obama?
While I’m more or less resigned to accepting the 2016 Democratic coronation, I do think some kind of competitive primary for the nomination would be valuable, even if the outcome didn’t change. If for no other reason than that it preps the nominee much better and keeps them from getting rusty while waiting for the other party to get it together.
It seemed “bitter” at the time, but the 2008 primary on the Dem side was one of the best things that could have happened to the party as a whole or either candidate, regardless of who had ended up winning. We never could have won Indiana and North Carolina that year in the general election if the Dems hadn’t been registering people through May and June there during the primary battle.
And on the flip side, we can look at the 2000 Democratic presidential primary. Vice President Gore was guided strongly into the “inevitable” position by President Clinton (whom he then tried to run from, which was weird, given Clinton’s continuing popularity at the time). Gore’s only challenge was a very weak run by Sen. Bill Bradley (NJ), who is a good guy but had no real chance of prevailing.
This meant Gore — who hadn’t run for office in his own right (i.e. not in the running mate slot) since the 1988 presidential primary — essentially didn’t campaign seriously in 2000 until about October. Then he suddenly woke up to the fact he was about to lose and then he campaigned like crazy. He was actually pretty good at it, and appealing, in the final weeks, by most of the accounts and polling I’ve read (since I was a bit too young to notice most of it at the time). But it was too late in the Electoral College, popular vote victory and Florida shenanigans aside. That he even came close enough for it to be stolen from him (if indeed it was) is a miracle given his lack of campaigning until right near the end.
(Exception to the above: Incumbent presidents tend to be hurt by primary challenges, though it’s unclear if that’s because they’re only challenged when already very weak, but they are already in full-time campaign mode anyway and thus don’t need the practice a non-incumbent requires.)
In 2008, John McCain picked the person who said this today on the Crimea crisis, to be his next-in-line as president of the United States: “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”
Let’s just take a moment to give silent thanks that we don’t live in the other universe, where that ticket won.