Thursday, January 19, 2006


Hillary's Gambit/Gore's Seriousness

After my Hillary-MLK post, a reader asks: "WHY was Hillary pandering now? Do you think Hillary's remark was made with her Senatorial re-elect audience in mind or are her people feeling the need to quash any Democrats getting to the Left of her for 2008 -- ala Gore or Feingold?"

My sense is the latter; she has the re-election sewn up (sorry, John Spencer). Note this
Tuesday Times piece piece discussing Hillary's balancing act between her '06 and '08 plans.

The whole series of events over the last few days looks like a classic script out of Bill Clinton's 90's playbook. Remember that he was the master of thinking three steps ahead of everyone else. Say something that He/She must have guessed what the reaction to the "plantation" line would be from Republicans. The more the GOP "demonizes" Hillary, the more the Democratic base will flock to her -- and the harder it will be for Feingold to draw any of the Kossacks toward them. However, that is true for any Democratic opponent to Hillary.

Well, all except one.

Former Vice President Al Gore -- easily mocked by most conservatives -- can certainly pose a formidable challenge to Hillary. Not only does he not have to explain votes on Iraq or any other support for the Bush policy; he can be a very serious candidate -- and not just from the perspective of his ability to raise money. Over the last few years, his various tirades against the Bush administration have been somewhat self-defeating because of his seeming need to -- literally -- SHOUT out his critique of the Bush policy.

That's not the case with
Gore's Monday (MLK Day) speech. With a more modulated and mannered delivery, it still not something that would convince more than a handful of conservatives and Republicans. However, it is not automatically dismissable. In addressing the issues surrounding NSA wiretapping, Gore made some serious points about the rule of law, executive power and the open-ended nature of the war on terror. Unlike Hillary's "plantation" pandering, this was an intellectual laying out of serious charges. Gore needs to be responded to in a manner beyond simple partisanship.

The Washington Post's David Broder noticed
its significance too:
[E]ven after discounting for political motivations, it seems to me that Gore has done a service by laying out the case as clearly and copiously as he has done. His overall charge is that Bush has systematically broken the laws and bent the Constitution by his actions in the areas of national security and domestic anti-terrorism.

...[T]he administration's resistance to setting and enforcing clear prohibitions on torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism raises legitimate questions about its willingness to adhere to the rule of law. From the first days after Sept. 11, Bush has appeared to believe that he is essentially unconstrained. His oddly equivocal recent signing statement on John McCain's legislation banning such tactics seemed to say he could ignore the plain terms of the law.

...Gore's final example -- on which he has lots of company among legal scholars -- is the contention that Bush broke the law in ordering the National Security Agency to monitor domestic phone calls without a warrant from the court Congress had created to supervise all such wiretapping. If -- as the Justice Department and the White House insist -- the president can flout that law, then it is hard to imagine what power he cannot assert.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has summoned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to a hearing on the warrantless wiretap issue, and that hearing should be the occasion for a broad exploration of the willingness of this administration to be constrained by the Constitution and the laws.

...Gore is certainly right about one thing. When he challenged the members of Congress to "start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be," he was issuing a call of conscience that goes well beyond any partisan criticism.
Say what you will about Al Gore, but contrast Broder's description of his speech with Hillary's rather weak complaint over how the House of Representatives is being run. One doesn't have to admire -- or even like -- Gore to recognize that he is playing on a higher field of play than the junior senator from New York. She's playing simple politics; he's talking constitutional urgency. And at least a couple of the conservatives who signed themselves to this statement share some of those concerns.

Gore has said that he's not planning on running for president in '08. If Hillary looks like the breakaway candidate and she chooses to run a campaign that -- in Gore's eyes -- doesn't rise to the level of intellectual gravity that he feels is merited, who's to say that he won't change his mind?

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