Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Hillary Clinton's dragon slayer narrative

Just like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is using old archetypes for her political narrative. In today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd says that Senator Clinton is portraying herself as a slayer of dragons.
"As she talked Sunday to George Stephanopoulos, a former director of the formidable Clinton war room, Hillary’s case boiled down to the fact that she can be Trouble, as they say about hard-boiled dames in film noir, when Republicans make trouble.

" “I have been through these Republican attacks over and over and over again, and I believe that I’ve demonstrated that much to the dismay of the Republicans, I not only can survive, but thrive,” she said.

"And on Tuesday night she told supporters, “Let me be clear: I won’t let anyone Swift-boat this country’s future.” "

Ms Dowd is not impressed.

"Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope."

"Hillary Clinton denounced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, but she did not absorb the ultimate lesson of the destructive vice president: Don’t become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision . . .

". . . Darkness seeking darkness. It’s an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path."

The Republican attack machine should not be dismissed lightly. If you don’t believe me, or you like your political narratives hard boiled, check out this little classic from George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign against the then Massachussetts governor, Michael Dukakis. If you're still up for it, check out the swift boat spots used against John Kerry in 2004 -- the ads referred to by Senator Clinton. The machine could yet waste Senator Obama - or Hillary Clinton herself.

Still, as Maureen Dowd points out, Barack Obama is getting some valuable tutelage:
"The relentless Hillary has been the reticent Obama’s tutor in the Political School for Scandal. He is learning how to take a punch and give one back. When she presents her mythic narrative, the dragon she has slain is the Republican attack machine. Obama told me he doesn’t think about mythic narratives, and Tuesday night in Chicago he was reaching up for “a hymn that will heal this nation and repair the world.”

"But, if he wants to be president, he will still have to slay the dragon. And his dragon is the Clinton attack
machine, which emerged Tuesday night, not invincible but breathing fire."

1 comment:

GoodLiberal said...

David Brooks' book called, if I remember correctly, 'The Republican Noise Machine' is the best overview of how the whole GOP operations stitches together, although Sidney Blumenthal's 'The Clinton Wars' is pretty good too. It was the prevelance of the 'Noise Machine' meme that lead to American liberals founding Media Matters, Air America, and thinking of setting up a long-term structure of their own. This seems to have dissapated with the Republican collapse in support, but might be something that they regret in years to come.