Hillary Clinton and the “Costanza Rule”
Of the major candidates in either party, I find that when faced with political or strategic choices, Hillary Clinton has the worst political “gut” I’ve seen in a long, long, time. Case in point, Hillary on any future role for Bill Clinton in a Clinton II White House:
“I think he would play the role that spouses have always played for presidents,” said Clinton, in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “He will not have a formal, official role, but just as presidents rely on wives, husbands, fathers, friends of long years, he will be my close confidante and adviser as I was with him.”
The candidate said having [ former] President Clinton participate in National Security Council meetings “wouldn’t be appropriate,” and in a crisis situation – like the one faced by President Bush this week after the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto – President Clinton would not sit in on discussions with his wife’s national security team.”
On the surface, a politically smooth and no doubt heavily wargamed response; yet in substance, an answer that is remarkably stupid and demonstrative of candidate Clinton’s deep personal insecurities. Yes, yes, let’s bar the best – correction, by far the best – qualified person from the room during a national security crisis. I’m well to the political Right but I’d sleep a lot better at night during a Hillary administration if I knew that old Slick Willie was on hand to say to the HillaryCollective ” Well…ah’m jest saying here that, if we did that…the markets might crash and Putin’s people are going to go ape and…and…and”.
I tend to take all Clinton political statements with a grain of salt but there’s probably more than a ring of truth here that Hillary fears being seen as dependent upon or overshadowed as president by her much more popular and politically talented husband. I say “talented” rather than “experienced” because Hillary’s political experience is actually very considerable but her inherently atrocious political instincts tend to prevent her experience from being adequately recognized. It is evident to me that, as much as I might not care for her as a personality or politician, Hillary has learned from that experience and polished her skills with tremendous self-discipline – but where she longs to go at any given moment tends to be politically counterproductive to her own interests.
In this, Hillary is not unlike the hapless Seinfeld character George Costanza, for whom no well-intended gesture ever failed to misfire horribly and this was a central premise of the show. Even George himself eventually became aware of this self-destructive pattern and tried to rectify it:
“George : It’s not working, Jerry. It’s just not working.
Jerry : What is it that isn’t working?
George : Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but … I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong.
( A waitress comes up to G )
Waitress : Tuna on toast, coleslaw, cup of coffee.
George : Yeah. No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, untoasted … and a cup of tea.
Elaine : Well, there’s no telling what can happen from this.
Jerry : You know chicken salad is not the opposite of tuna, salmon is the opposite of tuna, ‘cos salmon swim against the current, and the tuna swim with it.
George : Good for the tuna.
( A blonde looks at George )
Elaine : Ah, George, you know, that woman just looked at you.
George : So what? What am I supposed to do?
Elaine : Go talk to her.
George : Elaine, bald men, with no jobs, and no money, who live with their parents, don’t approach strange women.
Jerry : Well here’s your chance to try the opposite. Instead of tuna salad and being intimidated by women, chicken salad and going right up to them.
George : Yeah, I should do the opposite, I should.
Jerry : If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.
George : Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do
( He goes over to the woman )
George : Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice that you were looking in my direction.
Victoria : Oh, yes I was, you just ordered the same exact lunch as me.
( G takes a deep breath )
George : My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.
Victoria : I’m Victoria. Hi.”
It’s a tactic that Hillary Clinton might do well to consider.
December 30th, 2007 at 6:31 pm
So let’s imagine the zenpundit-approved response that Sen. Clinton should have given:
"Yes, I’ll make my husband – a domestic policy expert who was a lightning rod for criticism by the Right whenever he did anything with national security implications – a key member of my foreign policy team."
Whether or not what she says bears any relationship to what she’ll do, hers was clearly the politically smart answer.
December 30th, 2007 at 7:55 pm
You really want Bill making national security decisions? Compared to Bush, Clinton IS a warmonger, taking military action without prior approval of the people.
December 30th, 2007 at 9:29 pm
As much as I disagreed with Clinton on many things when he was in office, "warmonger" was not one of the epithets that I used to describe the man.
Who was really beating down her door because they were so worried that Bill might offer some kind of foreign policy advice ? Anybody ? No, Hillary wanted this story out there front and center for her own egocentric reasons.
The politically smart thing to do was not to have raised this issue in the first place and if asked, mumble something like " The former President is highly respected overseas and has a wealth of experience to share when called upon…blah..blah…blah" Something simple and to the point rather than some kind of weird exile/No-Bill-Zone that the Clinton’s will no doubt get caught violating anyway.
December 31st, 2007 at 12:30 am