Wednesday, June 04, 2008

As good as she was

As good as she was, Hillary Clinton could not help but represent the past, conventional thinking and even the status quo. In the wake of two Georges Bush and her own husband, and in contrast to Barack Obama, she could seem a steely "fighter," but she could not seem like the change agent for which so many millions clamor.

Historically, the U.S. Senate has not been a ripe launching pad for presidents or presidential campaigns. The senate has had some great orators but few members who capture the imaginations of millions, much less a majority of Americans. And Hillary is, we can tell, however capable, a senatorial type. She is a policy wonk, which is not a bad thing. It's a lot better thing than being incompetent or being from the CIA or the military or the minor leagues. But we've got radar on wonks when what we want is a head of state, when what we want is a two-term monarch, a suave and gallant symbol to lord over our national and worldly prospects.

Hillary suffered the same fate of so many senators who have run for president (and look where they are today, back where they belong). She ran as a capable senator, and that is not enough. She ran as a woman, and that is not enough. And she ran, in her worst moments, as Bill's wife and as a former First Lady, and that is not nearly enough. She ran on all she had.

Meanwhile, had he waited another term or two, Barack Obama would have been forced to run as a senator, as well, perhaps an "experienced" and even "senior" senator, as a committee chairman and accomplisher of legislative daring do, but a sitting senator with the clock ticking and a paper trail a decade long. He knew that to run as that sweeping, shining symbol, to be in millions of voters' eyes that gifted, suavely superhuman, blessed monarch we imagine, he'd have to run soon, run once, run now, and run with everything he had.


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