She needs to do better than that. Lost, lost in the thickets of her Iraq policy. She somehow escaped having to cop to her Iran policy -- something that should make liberal democrats shudder -- and got off the hook way easy on Bill. In order to seem authoritative, Hillary Clinton must revert reflexively to her two preprogrammed modes: Tilda Swinton and Evil Clown.
Barack Obama, by contrast, has two very different modes of authority. The first, on display when he gives stump speeches, is emotional, therapeutic, galvanic, charismatic. The second is Romney-esque -- in the weeds, pragmatic, occasionally diffusive, hesitant to go for the Mortal Kombat kill.
When he combines these two modes in the same sequence -- rarely, but effectively -- Clinton looks redundant, small, brittle, dare I say...narrow-minded. Beholden. A creature of a machine long dedicated to the task of cranking out creatures. A candidate for aging women who want to twist the knife and in that twist finally kill something that has haunted them always and purge the fear and the guilt of making a bad bet on a Faustian bargain. A woman for whom losing is not just losing but a rebuttal against the entire premise of her existence.
The burden of proof is on her, now. If she were anyone else this would have been over a long time ago, and that it isn't is a testament to her preternatural staying power -- but also to her sad and unnerving determination to master the universe by sheer drilling power, whatever the cost, whatever damage to her reputation, whatever weight of contempt weighs down on her from across the nation.
Against this grim visage, Obama seems like a revelation. That the policy daylight between both Dem candidates is as wide as an ant's leg throws into the sharpest possible relief how broad is the gulf between their persons. My taste for Hillary Clinton is clear. I retain my deep concerns about therapeutic politics under Obama. But tonight has served mainly to reinforce all standing prejudices: Clinton augurs an era when therapeutic politics will be practiced by a person long since incapable of genuinely sharing her soul, and Obama augurs, at worst, a therapeutic politics practiced by someone whose soul people line up for blocks to share. I am no sucker, but I recognize a crying desire when I see one. It's obvious what Democrats long for -- half policy, half passion. There's little love here for the policy, but the passion badly needs an outlet that renovates our ability to trust one another in the practice of bearing witness and engaging in politics. Hillary Clinton will never afford that. Barack Obama will.
The backstory on this post weaves through the liveblogging at AmSpec. Basic thought for the whole election so far:
One thing you can say about Romney and Obama, they ain't repressed.