Hey guys! Did you see Bill Kristol’s first column appeared in the Times today? Boy, was it a doozy. Kristol took his classic conservative bluster and put it front and center on his first day:
Thank you, Senator Obama. You’ve defeated Senator Clinton in Iowa. It looks as if you’re about to beat her in New Hampshire. There will be no Clinton Restoration. A nation turns its grateful eyes to you. But gratitude for sparing us a third Clinton term only goes so far. Who, inquiring minds want to know, is going to spare us a first Obama term? After all, for all his ability and charm, Barack Obama is still a liberal Democrat.
Blah, blah, blah, Hillary is a national nightmare, liberal Democrats will doom us all. Pretty standard boilerplate, most likely selected to startle the tepidly Democratic readership of the Times opinion pages. But Kristol doesn’t teach us anything we don’t know (“some Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of a Huckabee nomination”), and he doesn’t question anything we take for granted (“Voters seem to be enjoying making up their own minds this year. And Huckabee is a talented politician.”). So it’s not really that startling at all. But over in the Daily News, we get the same sort of indictment of Hillary Clinton and her campaign machine — only more surprising, this time it’s from former Clintonite and Democratic mastermind Bob Shrum.
The [campaign strategy] flaw wasn’t just the attempt to go back to the future, to the 1990s, but that the Clintons picked the wrong year in that decade. Instead of 1992, when Bill was the personification of change, their model was 1996. So Hillary ran as a pseudo-incumbent, with a selection of bite-size proposals and an abundance of caution and transparent calculation. Why would any campaign ever explicitly announce a tour to make the candidate “likable”? Or, as happened when the beleaguered Clinton machine sputtered into New Hampshire, that they now had a plan for her to be spontaneous and actually answer audience questions? The Clinton industry, encrusted with the beneficiaries and acolytes of the first and probably only Clinton presidency, has turned Hillary into a product whose sell-by date has passed.
Wow, insight to back up criticism. It’s like frosting with cake. Shrum says it’s not too late to fix Hillary’s campaign if she lets her real self show. “Contrary to the caricatures, Hillary Clinton is a real person, often funny in private, with engaging qualities that have been well-hidden in this campaign,” Shrum writes. “But the hour is late and even if the real Hillary emerges, voters might see it as just another contrivance.” Ah. Now, Shrum is a strategist who has lost more prominent campaigns than he has won so some may question the weight of his opinion. But by turning a critical eye to his own party, he’s at least created an interesting read. It’s nice that it came on the same day as Kristol’s maiden effort at the Times. The two of them are veteran members of their parties’ respective brain trusts. Kristol’s main point seems to be “Did you know Mike Huckabee is actually a good candidate?” (Answer: Yes, a little bird named Iowa told us.) Let’s hope Kristol steps up his game in subsequent columns. Otherwise, we’re going to have to do that thing where we stop paying attention to what he’s talking about and start just making fun of him for quoting hackneyed song lyrics.