TCS Daily


McCain v. Clinton Is No Done Deal

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - March 13, 2006 12:00 AM

These days, it's easy to assume that John McCain and Hillary Clinton are fated to face one another in the general election for the Presidency in 2008. Each is the biggest name among potential Presidential aspirants in their respective parties. Each has wide popular appeal among a core constituency and star power among the general populace that most Presidential candidates only dream of. And each will have ready access to gobs of money with which to finance a long and arduous Presidential campaign.

But while a McCain-Clinton match-up might very well take place, Presidential primaries and caucuses are known for their surprises and the possibility that each Senator might be upstaged and upended in the quest for their respective nominations should not be underestimated. In fact, Senators McCain and Clinton face two common obstacles both to their capability to be nominated, and to their chances of winning a general election.

America's executive culture

The last Presidential candidate to have ascended to the Oval Office from any chamber of Congress was John F. Kennedy in 1960, when he moved to the Presidency from the Senate. Since then, the American electorate has elected, in order, a sitting President of the United States (1964), a former Vice President (1968), a sitting President (1972), a former Governor (1976), a former Governor (1980), a sitting President (1984), a sitting Vice President (1988), a Governor (1992), a sitting President (1996), a Governor (2000) and a sitting President (2004). Along the way, four Senators (Goldwater in 1964, McGovern in 1972, Dole in 1996 and Kerry in 2004) have been defeated in their quests for the Presidency as nominees of their party.

What all of this would appear to indicate is that America is an executive culture and not a parliamentary one. We appreciate Governors, Vice President and incumbent Presidents — all of whom have executive experience to bring to bear in performing their duties as Leader of the Free World. In contrast, Senators and Representatives cast votes. To be sure, casting votes is an important activity and oftentimes requires no small amount of courage. But a legislator is not an executive and it is easier for an executive to make claims about leadership experience that will stick positively with the public than it is for legislators — as recent election cycles have shown.

Additionally, it is very easy to distort and misrepresent a particular legislative vote that might have been taken for tactical purposes and that might not have a bearing on how the legislator really feels about the substance of a particular political issue. Executives have the luxury of not having to worry about the murkiness of tactical votes and how such votes might portray them among the populace. Both Senators McCain and Clinton will likely suffer from a perceived lack of executive experience amongst the voters and they will see a number of their votes misrepresented and distorted — among members of their own respective parties, no less.

Issue identification

For a Presidential candidate to succeed he/she must find an issue with which to strongly identify and rally supporters to his/her campaign. Senator McCain has such an issue; campaign finance reform. Appearing to clean up a perceived corrupt political system certainly has its advantages in terms of electoral appeal. But the danger for Senator McCain is that more and more people might view his signature legislative achievement as being nothing more than a severe diminishment of First Amendment-guaranteed rights of free expression. Indeed, the argument that campaign finance legislation is merely a crude means of silencing one's political opponents is a potent one for an American electorate already wary about privacy and speech rights. Skilled opponents of Senator McCain can take his campaign finance reform law and use it to portray the Senator as being a less-than-stalwart friend of the First Amendment. And rest assured they are already working to do just that.

For Senator Clinton, the opposite problem exists. She does not yet have an issue with which she strongly identifies. Health care reform may be an old standby from her days as First Lady, but given the politically disastrous effort undertaken by the Clinton Administration to reform health care, it would be understandable if Senator Clinton chooses to distance herself from that issue somewhat, lest she remind voters of the political clumsiness she and the Clinton Administration displayed in attempting to reform healthcare. Senator Clinton has tried instead to appear to be a moderate with strong national security credentials by accepting an assignment on the Senate Armed Services Committee. But unless you are a complete political junkie, you likely have no idea that Senator Clinton is on the Armed Services Committee and claims that she is a moderate are not backed up in the public mind with specifics. Indeed, she is best known not for any identification with the issues, but rather because she was once a First Lady. That's enough to give her star power, but not enough to ground her in issues the voters care about.

None of these obstacles is necessarily insurmountable and it is entirely possible that come January 2009, we might have either a President McCain or another President Clinton. But sometimes, the early buildup surrounding perceived Presidential frontrunners ends up evaporating as an unknown candidate ends up surprising the political establishment with unexpected strength. And in the respective cases of Senators McCain and Clinton, the perception of inevitability concerning their nominations can and might be derailed by the problems listed above. There is at least some suspense left in terms of the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominations, meaning that those who portray the Senators as surefire Presidential nominees should perhaps wait before trying their hands at Laphamization.

Pejman Yousefzadeh is a writer and lawyer living in California. He maintains the popular blog Pejmanesque.

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10 Comments

Two words
Rudy Guiliani

:)

Interestng Approach --- BUT ---
Interesting thoughts, but there are some problems.

First, McCains'association with campaign finance reform may not be a strong, or even good, association. McCain-feinberg is a joke, leaving loop-holes all over the place. I wouldn't want to be assocated with it and I wonder if he regrets his name attached to it at this point.

Second, Swillary has had an issue for a long time --- women's and children's rights and welfare. Can you say, "Apple pie and motherhood?" She's been an ineffective senator, but Swillary is know more for her image creation that her substance and she has Slick willie to help with that. So, her lack of an otherwise important issue and her feigned moderate position of national defense and security may be disproportionately covered and promoted, respectively.

Third, you can bet your ass that Swillary will use her experience as First Lady in a distorted manner to suggest executive experience. Remember, "WE are the President."

McCain the Manchurian Candidate
McCain is a reformed bag man who appears mentally ill. His Campaign Finance Bill was, and is intended to undermind the nations elections.

The Manchurian Candidates
Hillary and McCain are the same kind of lousy unprincipled politician. They are the essence of progressive idealists and thereby equally bankrupt.

Among their many signal words to start the double-talk and spotlight grabbing (like a Manchurian Candidate but instead of murdering a man they murder principles, rights, and muddy the facts smuggling in so much crap) is Global Warming.

Evil incarnate. Evil.

McCain & Clinton, Megalomaniac Narcissists and The Future
I agree with the prior posts about the character deficiencies of these two egomaniacs. If they weren't so dangerous, I might be tempted to feel sorry for them, because both exhibit characteristics of deeply disturbed individuals.

Worse-there are distinct similarities-sort of like ordinary political instincts on steroids-explosive tempers, narcissism, insatiable lust for power and willingness to identify, promote and adopt positions that are meritless at best or destructive at worst.Its hard to see any legislation in Hilary's term that is particulary great-meanwhile McCain wants to stifle opposition and obsesses about steroids and "tortute". On the last issue, I think he needs to clinical way to work out his Vietnam ghosts because I doubt the buzz he go off ramming through his antitorture law will do so.

Neither strikes me as particularly posessed of that long lost virtue-wisdom. Despite Newt Gingrich's assessment of hilary as the greatest guru of healthcare the country, logically she's not even the most versed in the Senate (how in the hell can a general practice lawyer and one who's run her mouth but not any cases for a long time be more informed on healthcare than say Bill Frist, an MD?)

If 2008 or 2012 for that matter comes down to these two, God help us.

Unfortunately, we seem to be slowly but surely degrading into a third world "democracy"-where the brakes on whim are non-existent and Constitutional prohibitions on the expanding scale and scope of government present not the slightest impediment to the next grand scheme.

Additionally, we have a nation thats overtaxed and overregulated and exhausted-and ripe for the emergence of political pied pipers like these two.

Voting for these two would a little like the choosing between drowning and burning to death.





Two more words and an explanation
GAG ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rudi's my guy only :

Assuming we don't have enough Notheast RINOS;

Asssuming we need another grandstanding showman;

Assuming Republicans should assume that a man who lacked the dignity to not publicize his marital discord-that he apparently caused;

Assuming a man who's best judgment referred a huge political liability up for a high-profile national post because they were buds;

Assuming we don't mind another guy for who government is the first, best or only answer;

I see nothing in this guy to make him presidential material and he's not even a blip on the primary voter wishlists.






M-F Camp Fin "Reform"
First, McCains'association with campaign finance reform may not be a strong, or even good, association. McCain-feinberg is a joke, leaving loop-holes all over the place. I wouldn't want to be assocated with it and I wonder if he regrets his name attached to it at this point.

I find that to be damning, not exculpatory. McCain has said nothing to indicate he regrets his "ssociation" (he was a principal sponsor-thats as strong an association as you get) and only proves he lacks judgment enough to rule in favor of sound public policy over what should be unconstitutional legislative lunacy.

Evil incarnate
Are these the same sorts of people who've been fluoridating our drinking water?

Or are they in league with the Black Helicopter crowd, out there subverting our Christian democracy in service to the mud people?

Who would your ideal candidate be? I'm curious.

Somebody who
There is no ideal candidate, politics is like fire, a little well controlled keeps us warm and safe, a little more becomes uncontrolled and dangerous and its never easy to tell the difference or use a little more.

An acceptable candidate has good physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stamina, executive experience, is well read, has no messianic delusions, and a solid record that allows the electorate to understand what motivates them.

Additionally, there should be no recurrent issues of "flippflopping", emotional volatility, poor judgment, naked and pervasive lust for power.

When that person happens to achieve prominence and viability I'll be thrilled to let you know.

I will take this one.
The ideal candidate is one that respects the individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (The pursuit of happiness includes the right to use private property.)

In my view neither candidate has shown any interest in respecting these rights. McCain wants to consolidate power with incumbents depriving the citzens of their free speech rights. Hillary and McCain have shown willingness to use tax payer money and military personnel lives to pursue pointless wars. Moreover, both desire to take away the rights of individuals to buy and manage their own healthcare and give it to a government run monopoly.

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