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Hillary vs. McCain in '08: Part 1

Maybe there won't be a Part 2 of this post, and thus that headline could be misleading, but you can't adequately bring up Hillary Clinton and John McCain in a single blog item. Connie Bruck's New Yorker profile of McCain (May 30 issue) makes the case that he's running for president pretty much full time. Bruck is a dogged reporter; McCain's guard is so low, he lets her follow him into a casino, where he indulges an appetite for gambling. He likes the dice.

And today we have a story in The Post about the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, an excerpt, of sorts, from my colleague John Harris's new book, "The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House." Harris opens with a great anecdote, circa 2000, during Hillary's Senate campaign, in which Bubba says to Hillary, "Women want to know why you stayed with me," and Hillary answers, "Yes, I've been wondering that myself." The president comes up with an explanation about how she's "a sticker," but what's really revealing is that they're having this discussion while examining poll results. Some people work out their problems with a marriage counselor; others work them out over a spreadsheet from Gallup.

But this paragraph really jumps out of the Harris story this morning:

In 1993, White House aide Rahm Emanuel -- now a Democratic House member from Illinois -- planned an event inviting prominent Republicans to a White House dinner as a way of garnering support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. He assumed he would win praise for a clever tactical maneuver. Instead, the first lady was infuriated. "What are you doing inviting these people in my home?" she said, according to people familiar with the episode. Nearly sobbing with anger, she told him: "These people are our enemies. They are trying to destroy us."

Maybe Senator Clinton, like McCain, has learned to forgive her enemies, and Harris's story seems to suggest that this has been a major element of her senatorial strategy -- find allies across the aisle on key issues, try to moderate her image, make her appear in touch with mainstream values rather than being a feminist-socialist power-grabber. But her own memoir, as I recall, was full of us-against-them; she seemed to remain persuaded that she and her husband were victims of a vast right-wing conspiracy (VRWC). There was, to be sure, a sizable confederation of foam-mouthed Clinton haters, and that confederation still exists, weirdly obsessed with Mrs. Clinton (these folks think the Clintons are not only bad people but truly monstrous; they routinely will stage a barbecue or a fish fry for the sole purpose of hating Hillary). But the haters weren't the ultimate source of the Clintons's problems. [Not gonna rehash all that right now -- lest we drift back into 1998, the Lost Year.]

McCain and Mrs. Clinton would have to overcome a lot to become president. McCain would face a primary battle from his right -- Gingrich and Frist are already running. The dirty tricksters would once again circulate the rumor that he went crazy during his Vietnam captivity. McCain's temperament would become an issue; voters will be told that, at any moment, his head might explode. It'll be South Carolina 2000 all over again. McCain's greatest asset is his reputation for straight talk, but he's shown himself capable of political expediency, as when he sold out his conscience on the confederate flag issue. He campaigned hard for President Bush even as he believed that Bush had made a royal mess of Iraq (and how it must gall the former POW to think that, while he was in chains in Hanoi, Dubya was at the driving range working on his long irons).

Mrs. Clinton's obstacles are even worse. She's smart like her husband, but she has a likeability problem that's worse even than John Kerry's. Look at what got Bill Clinton elected in 1992: A fresh face, hugely likeable, great one on one campaigner, able to cast himself as a genuine moderate rather than a liberal Democrat, a southern Governor, young, open, seemingly spontaneous and uncalculated. I'm scanning the list to see if any of these things apply to Hillary Rodham. Um....nope.

Bottom line, it's Jeb's race to lose. We are, after all, a hereditary monarchy.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 31, 2005; 7:12 AM ET
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Next: Mark Felt Is Deep Throat?


Frist: Pasty, zero charisma, tainted by Schiavo intervention/distant neurological diagnosis...

Newt: Pillsbury Dough Boy, let's be serious...

McCain: Why is he leading the call for an Uzbek investigation rather than one at Guantanamo?...

Jeb (John Ellis Bush): Abused alcohol at Andover in the 9th grade, daughter's drug problems (and preferential treatment at rehab) more problematic than Bush's daughters' alcohol problems (?), and wife Columba Bush nabbed by U.S. Customs for failing to declare $19,000 worth of clothes and jewelry she bought in Paris, claiming she spent only $500. A wife who lies, a kid who is in denial, a truly dysfunctional family...

Hillary: Been around this block before...

The country will be looking for the moderate who will be the uniter, not the divider--whatever the party affiliation.

Posted by: Meooowww | May 31, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

You are telling us that people will reject Jeb Bush because of his wife and daughter?? Are you insane or just mean? Tell me where I can find an American family that does not meet your definition of "truly dysfunctional."

Posted by: Achenbach | May 31, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

We put the fun in dysfunctional!

If the fun wasn't there, it'd be dysctional, which is hard to pronounce.

Posted by: wiredog | May 31, 2005 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Two things:

(1) You forgot one thing in your "what got Clinton elected" list: a rich, charismatic right-of-center third-party candidate who sucked the wind out of Bush 41's sails, then withdrew from the race just before the Democratic convention, giving Clinton a 30-point poll boost overnight. Hillary isn't likely to have one of those, either.

(2) If a husband and wife can't discuss their marital troubles while poring over poll results, when CAN they?

Posted by: Caius | May 31, 2005 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I think, since Laura is one of the Discovery Channel's 100 greatest Americans, that she must run to continue the Bush legacy.

Either that, or Barbara (I think the voters meant the older Barbara... darn it)

Posted by: Wine garten | May 31, 2005 11:40 AM | Report abuse

There is one candidate who shares some of Bill Clinton's attributes, though not all of them: Virginia Governor Warner. Southern (sort of), moderate centrist, good campaigner though not charismatic, good record of working with both parties.

Posted by: PeterK | May 31, 2005 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to see a President McCain as much as any Democrat, but there's no way he gets elected. Conservatives hate him.

As for Jeb, I have heard rumors that the reason GWB was anointed in 2000 instead of Jeb was not because of Jeb's wife or daughter, but because Jeb has a taste for the forbidden fruit best described as Clintonesque. Nothing has been proven, but when insiders in your own party are concerned about these kinds of rumors, it's not good (again, cf. Bill Clinton).

Posted by: mmy | May 31, 2005 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Good thread. It's never to early to speculate about these things, because the campaigns ares set in motion before the candidacies are announced.

Hopefuilly 08 will be immune from one-issue voters and one-issue candidates - the only way to prevent that from happening is to get moderates in the business of controlling the national conversation. Unfortunately that's a tall order of chicken-or-the-egg-first.

ABC is reporting that Vanity Fair has revelaed the identity of Deep Throat. Mark Felt - a former FBI official has been named.

Joel, can you go to the horse's mouth there in the Washington Post newsroom and find two or three sources to confirm this?

Posted by: peter | May 31, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps there were reasons other than innuendo that GWB was "annointed" instead of his brother. Jeb could not have succeeded in 2000. He had just taken office as Governor in 1999 and had little record on which to to base a presidential run other than his name.

Posted by: InvestiGator | May 31, 2005 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Achenbach you couldn't be more wrong. Newt couldn't even hold on to his own leadership in the House. Frist? Lets face it he's dull and sanctimonious. As for Jeb, forget it, he has a terrible personality, the current Bush will have left a stain on the family name by 2008- Iraq, stock market, health care, America reputation you name it all failures. Hillary will win and she can do it with a one word campaign - RESTORE

Posted by: SouthernDem | May 31, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"You are telling us that people will reject Jeb Bush because of his wife and daughter?? Are you insane or just mean? Tell me where I can find an American family that does not meet your definition of 'truly dysfunctional.'"

Neither mean or insane...simply a person with high standards, an egalitarian, a pragmatist. So, Achenbach, what, in your humorous opinion, has John Ellis Bush done in Florida as governor that truly qualifies him to be White House-worthy? Other than his imperial gene pool?

Posted by: Meooowww | May 31, 2005 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Floridian, and a Democrat no less, that would be happy with Jeb in the White House. Of course his brother has lowered the bar somewhat, but consider what Jeb has going for him: Latino family, Southern Governor, moderate, would have a hugh advantage in one of the two most important states in a presidential contest, daughter's experience and his response makes him more human (what parent wouldn't use their influence to get their children the best treatment for a drug problem), speaks very fluent spanish, etc.

Jeb will be the nominee and president if he wants it.

Posted by: Josh | May 31, 2005 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm already thinking about giving 08 a miss & start campaigning for Obama in '12. I think Meooowww may be right that the country is beginning to weary of the red v. blue shootout we've had for the past decade. A REAL uniter--as opposed to the disingenuous version we have in office at the moment--would be mighty refreshing. Hillary ain't it. Frist ain't it. McCain, well, maybe.

He seems to be sensing a change in the wind as is trying to position himself as the leader of the Senate Mod Squad, and maybe he could survive the machine-gunning by Rove's Raiders in '08, but I'm not holding my breath.

Yeah, Obama in '12. I'll see y'all then.

Posted by: Eric Crump | May 31, 2005 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Josh as a South Carolinian who is married to an Ecuadorian I would like contradict two of your assumptions. First Florida is not considered to be a 'Southern State'by people living from the Carolinas to Louisiana . Second Latinos are not a cohesive group. Jeb has pandered to the Cubans which has angered a lot of other Latino groups. Yes a lot of parents would use there influence to help a child, but only the Bushes condemn everyone but themselves when it happens, that is what people find so disgusting. George W or Jeb's daughter get medical help for their drug problems others go to jail.

Posted by: SouthernDem | May 31, 2005 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I absolutely disagree that Jeb Bush will be the Repub nominee. What has he done while Gov besides grease the wheels (or palms) to make sure Georgie got elected twice over? I like to think that Americans would back away from 3 Presidents from the same family. It's a little too dynastic even for these cynical times. Call me a positive thinker, I guess. Bill Frist doesn't have a prayer ;) at being the nominee. I also think John McCain has a serious chance to capture the nomination, and fully expect Hilary to be the Democratic nominee. As far as I am concerned, this situation would be nearly paradise. No matter which candidate won, the country would win.

Posted by: TA | May 31, 2005 2:15 PM | Report abuse

we need a uniter. Oh give me a break. the boat is sinking, and no party will stop it, especially those two bloated and decedant carcasses. Can we please start talking about some real issues soon, please please please. failed wars (both on terrorism and drugs), a serious health care system, a real response to oil dependence. I wont continue

Posted by: rich | May 31, 2005 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The governor's daughter, Noelle, was arrested in Tallahassee in January 2002 for trying to fill a false prescription for the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. She was sent to a drug-rehabilitation program in Orlando. Six months later, she was jailed for three days in Florida's Orange County Correctional Center for violating the rules of her drug-treatment program. She reportedly had stolen the pills from the nurse's office at the rehab center.

After her jail time, Noelle returned to the rehab center. On Sept. 9, 2002, one of the rehab patients called 911 to report that staffers had found crack cocaine in Noelle's shoes.

"She does this all the time, and she gets out of it because she's the governor's daughter," the caller told police. "But we're sick of it here, 'cause we have to do what's right, but she gets treated like some kind of princess...We're just trying to get our lives together, and this girl's bringing drugs on [the] property."

Six police cars arrived to investigate the complaint. The staff admitted finding the drug on Noelle but refused to cooperate with the police, and the employee who made the discovery ripped up her written statement to protect Noelle and uphold the center's confidentiality policy. No charges were filed, but a judge sent the governor's daughter to jail for 10 days for violating the terms of her agreement.

Jeb and Columba did not appear in court with their daughter....On the day Noelle was sentenced, her father was raising funds in Florida with his brother George, but neither the governor nor the President appeared in court to stand beside the young woman. Noelle's brother George P. Bush was there, along with their Aunt Dorothy Bush Koch.

--from "The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty," pp. 621-622

If the writer's account is untrue, certainly the Washington Post can report otherwise.

Posted by: Meooowww | May 31, 2005 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I generally think JEB is not likely to be the GOP candidate becuase of family dynasty concerns, though he is among the best in the field. He also chickened out of saving Terri Schiavo from murder. It was his job, not the feds so much, to save her. Mark Warner is a fraud. He's raised taxes with the aid of some mealy-mouthed republicans in the state legislature--in spite of voters rejecting tax increases a year or two earlier.

The GOP rank and file will not nominate McCain; he's betrayed the party and its principles too many times, like this last week. In fact, the leading candidate these days is Sen. George Allen, former VA governor who's doing great things in the US Senate and led the GOP senate elections in 04. Frist is not on the map. [No, Voinovich has not made the list.]

Posted by: Peggy | May 31, 2005 5:04 PM | Report abuse

George Voinovich is a Great senator. He served with distinction as mayor,and governor. Voinovich would make a sensational president!

Posted by: Lyndon | May 31, 2005 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Peggy, I cannot think of one great thing George Allen has done in the Senate. He has no hope for President with that dopey face and condescending tone of voice. If Mark Warner runs against him for the Senate he has a good chance of losing. You don't like Frist but Allen follows him around like a puppy. And Peggy stop complaining about your taxes, Virginia has great schools.

Posted by: SouthernDem | May 31, 2005 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Southern Dem,

Is that why all the white families send their kids to private schools? I'd never send my kids to those public schools in Alexandria or Fairfax County. They spend so much darned money to teach English and other remedial subjects to non-Americans, not to mention the "progressive" social agendas. Roman Catholic schools for us, thank you very much! We're paying high taxes so the poor people and illegal aliens can be subsidized in No Va.

George Allen has been active on many fronts on domestic and international issues. I guess if you're a Dem, you not would find his work helping Americans or their families get out of Chinese prisons, for example, to be impressive. He's strong on pro-life and pro-family matters. I don't think that southern Virginians will buy again what Mark Warner has to sell. He's so to the left it isn't funny. He vetoed every effort to curb access to abortions by teens w/o parent approval. Is that not insane? Parents have to approve of appendectomies, why not abortions when one life is taken and another is risked?

Posted by: Peggy | May 31, 2005 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Not all parents should approve of abortions because more often than not a minor looking for an abortion is in that situation because of a rape on the part of the father. So I guess you for the rapist having more rights than the victim, typical right-wing attitude. Those are pretty vague accolades for Sen Allen, good luck with the campaign. As a Roman Catholic myself I believe pro-life extends to war!!! Sen Allen helped start the war in Iraq which has killed over 100,000 Iraqis nearly 2000 Americans not to mention the fact that abortions in this country have gone up 25% since George W took office. As a Roman Catholic I was taught to follows Jesus's example to care for and protect the least of us in this world, I believe that includes providing basic education to the children of the people who are the most vulnerable in American society-illegal immigrants. But I guess you need the extra tax money for what? another car? another TV, enjoy your grapes they were picked by someone in this country for 25 cents an hour.

Posted by: SouthernDem | June 1, 2005 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes war is necessary and, yes, innocents as well as guilty folks are regrettably killed in them. The 25% increase in abortion stats have been questioned. Don't have a link at this moment. Further, I did examine abor stats up to 95, which was the latest demographic stats I could find. The predominant demographic was a white woman, over 25, and unmarried. 80% of all abortions are by ummarried women/girls. I should hope a mother and father would be informed if their daughter is raped, for goodness sake, so charges can be brought. The rape is not usually by the father, but a step-father or boyfriend. Incest is much less likely in marriages between the mother and father than these non-other arrangements.

Illegal aliens are criminals by definition and have formed very dangerous gangs here in No Va. Public safety not to mention harmony are at great risk here. We are not wealthy. We are judicious with our resources. We are home with our children--not yet school-age. Whatever resources we have were not given to us for nothing. We do have our charities we support. Further, most fruit is imported. The best thing we could to is pursue economic/political change south of our borders. I would pay more for legal labor in our agricultural industries. I am an economist. Paying the actual cost under "fair" conditions, etc., doesn't bother me.

So, typical to claim that GOP does not side w/victims. Who's standing for the unborn? The victims of terrorism and Islamo-nutcases? Who's trying to protect children from exposure to sexuality--of all varieties--at young ages? Last time I checked the left was not protecting these folks. The political right is not supporting NAMBLA. The left only seems to dislike pedophiles who are Catholic priests, the rest should be allowed to express themselves.

Posted by: Peggy | June 1, 2005 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Yes Peggy sometimes war is necessary..Iraq is not one of those wars. Regardless of the neccessity of war illegal torture and detention of human beings is NEVER necessary. Islamo-nutcases? spare us the racial slurs, comments like that say more about you than the person you trying to critisize. I think Jesus talks about this is very easy for us to talk about the sanctity of life when is comes to a blastocyst. It requires no sacrifice on our part... you don't have to forgive a life that hasn't happened yet. But Jesus didn't wander in those issues he met with the criminals he talked to the poor and the meek. You condemn all illegal immigrants (I'll bet you are a descendent of an immigrant to this country) because a few may be violent. Why not point out all the contributions immigrants, many illegal, have done for this country or would that require too much forgiveness and compassion on your part.

As far as the abortion issue goes you can check the CDC website, abortions were in steady every year 1993 - 2001 of the Clinton administration..after peaking in the Reagan administration. Since 2001 abortions are on a steady increase. Sorry it would be nice to think the passive, blame the women conservative agenda is doing something about abortions, but it isn't. Your analysis of the rape senario is highly flawed. The father or a legal caregiver is more often than not the rapist in the case of teen pregnancy. You are expecting a child under 16 to be able to confront the rapist before they can seek cruel. I agree with you that a steady family situation is good for children, perhaps you can explain to me why divorce, teen pregnancy, and abortions are more prevalent in conservative 'red' states than in areas of the country where progressives live. The left does not support NAMBLA and how dare you defend those priests who sexually abuse children.

Posted by: SouthernDem | June 1, 2005 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Why don't we get those wild and crazy Bush girls together with the equally wild and crazy Kennedy men? Then reserve a wing at the Betty Ford Clinic.

Posted by: Innocent Bystander | June 1, 2005 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Southern Dem,

Look, I'm not gonna look up a bunch of stats at midnight here. I also have a living to make in the day hours, not to mention care for my children. It is NOT the natural father who is the most common incest offender, for goodness sake. So spare me. "Passive, blame the women conservative agenda"? Most abortions are by adult single (& white) women. The raped/incest victim under 18, while of course occurs, is really the hard and rare case among abortions. At least one parent should approve of an abortion before it occurs. I stand by my position that the 2001+ stats are flawed based on news reports I've read. They rely on Gautmacher (?) Institute, which produces lousy stats. I've seen some of them. They say abortions per 1000 women. No, it should be abortions per pregnancy. It makes a world of difference.

If divorce, etc., are indeed greater in red states, as you say, although I have never seen such evidence, perhaps it's only because red-staters actually marry in the first place to end up divorced. For the love of Pete, I did not defend pervert priests. I'm saying they are the only perv's that the left or ACLU will NOT defend. The right is not in the habit of defending pervs. We toss 'em to the wolves as soon as exposed, eg., Bob Packwood, Bob Livingston; whereas Clinton, eg., is defended to the point of lying. Generally speaking, the left is into free sexual expression and working its way into justifying "intergenerational sex" in some academic quarters. [That's how incest and rape are encouraged.] ACLU is defending NAMBLA is some cases in progress as we speak. Some members used the group's guidebooks to lure a young boy and rape and kill him. His parents are suing NAMBLE. Google it.

I don't have racist views toward Muslims or Arabs in general. There are some who are clearly out of their minds by our western standards of decency and sanity. I'm more worried about them killing more of us than about their feelings. My immigrant ancestors did not violate any US laws in getting and staying here. They did not form gangs to terrorize the community. No, not all illegals are in gangs, but work by Heather MacDonald a couple years ago indicated that the Latino gangs are dominated by, if not exclusively populated by, illegal aliens. Illegal alien wages drag down wages and take job opportunities from citizens or legal immigrants. Yes, many economists and business-types like this for profits, but I dont' care. We don't need to profit unethically or illegally. We can help Latinos by doing more work to change their home countries to provide hope there. The US cannot absorb every one in need of a better life on this continent. Why not work for justice and change outside the US as well?

Finally, quit accusing me of things I have not said. In any case, I do not anticipate any change in your mind or mine.

Posted by: Peggy | June 2, 2005 1:00 AM | Report abuse

I'll go out on a limb here and predict that none of the people mentioned on this string will be elected president in 2008. Some governor or no-longer-Washington-insider will win on the strength of public disgust with the mess the current crowd has made.

Posted by: allbetsareoff | June 2, 2005 6:38 AM | Report abuse


I'm willing to think that's the case. Both Clinton and W Bush ran on that theme, as did Reagan and I think Carter--they all had claim to it even if they did not explicitly use it. A southern or western governor is very possible, I'd say. [Yet, Jeb fits that.]

Posted by: Peggy | June 2, 2005 9:22 AM | Report abuse

ptdhjwmz [link]test4[/link]

Posted by: John S | June 26, 2006 9:27 AM | Report abuse

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