Monday, January 07, 2008

Which is Greater -- the Historical Stupidity or the Political Stupidity?

Hillary Clinton today, from Politico (via):
Clinton rejoined the running argument over hope and "false hope" in an interview in Dover this afternoon, reminding Fox's Major Garrett that while Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on behalf of civil rights, President Lyndon Johnson was the one who got the legislation passed.

Hillary was asked about Obama's rejoinder that there's something vaguely un-American about dismissing hopes as false, and that it doesn't jibe with the careers of figures like like John F. Kennedy and King.

"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," Clinton said. "It took a president to get it done."

..."The power of that dream became real in people's lives because we had a president" capable of action, Clinton said.
King didn't act, only spoke? Obama's "only" like King?


Even the Politico itself felt compelled to add:
Clinton didn't explicitly compare herself to Johnson, or Obama to King. But it seems an odd example for the argument between rhetoric and action, as there's little doubt which figure's place in history and the American imagination is more secure.

If I wasn't already solidifying on Obama, this might push me over. I say again: damn.

Update: Josh Marshall claims that Hillary's remarks were taken out of context -- although he admits that her wording was ambiguous. I'm not sure I'm convinced by Marshall's reading -- she was answering a question about King, not Kennedy -- but if he's right then at what she said was reasonable enough. I just don't know if that's what she said (it's almost certainly what she wishes she'd said...) Later: Ben Smith defends his original interpretation here.

Update 2: Yglesias accepts Marshall's interpretation, but notes that saying your opponent is like JFK is a poor political argument, even if there is some merit to it as a criticism. Meanwhile, another blogger accepts the basic LBJ v. MLK interpretation, spelling out a bit more than I did above how offensive it is and why. (via)

Update 3: Steve Benen sides with the MLK/LBJ interpretation, and links to Oliver Willis doing the same. I'm about ready to write off Marshall's interpretation as special pleading -- what Clinton wishes she'd said, but not what she did say.

... and still more MLK/LBJ talk from Mark Kleiman. (via)

As for the other Clinton story of today: ...whereas this whole "crying" thing strikes me as just silly -- should be a non-issue -- and, yes, shame on Edwards for his response. This will only get play because of the sexism/herd instinct of the media. (Although I must admit that when I read that the question she was answering was "Who does your hair?", even I find it kind of funny...)

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