Staggering, not quite falling

>> Monday, February 04, 2008

Last week, I think I said something about writing a blog entry about a New Yorker article about Hillary Clinton I'd read. (This one, if you'd like to read it; and it is worth reading.) I was going to also throw in a comparative bit in reference to a very intriguing Washington Post piece on Barack Obama. (This one, also worth reading, if you'd like.) I said I'd write it, and I even mentioned it again to my sister. And I tried. Honestly, I did.

At some point in your third draft, trying to say the same damn thing the right way and discovering you're lost again, you start wondering if the journey was actually worth taking. And that's not to say you give up, as such. The most recent version is saved as a draft on the Blogspot server, broken in mid-sentence. The problem in this particular instance is complexity: the New Yorker piece is persuasive without being convincing, seductive without being charming. It suggests that Mrs. Clinton is far more human than she's allowed herself to appear on the campaign trail--which is a good thing, except that being a nice person is maybe a necessary but not sufficient condition for being qualified for the job of President of these United States. Amusement at kitten-eating Photoshoppery aside, no doubt President Bush would be a perfectly nice man to have as your next-door neighbor or even a brilliant Commissioner Of Baseball--that hardly qualifies him to lead the free world. Hell, the same kind of thing might be said about candidate Mike Huckabee: a funny, bass-playing, down-to-earth dude with a wife who traps bear and skydives? I'd be happy to invite them to a neighborhood cookout, and I'll even be polite when I turn down their seventeenth invitation to visit their church. Vote him onto the Homeowners' Association board? Sure. But President? Hell, no. I have no reason to believe he'd keep his deity at church and home, where it belongs, and out of the Oval Office, where we used to have a fine secular tradition.

So how do you get across the nuances of Mrs. Clinton's humanity being more significant than Mr. Huckabee's or Mr. Bush's, without sounding like it's merely partisan hypocrisy? The answer is simply that Mrs. Clinton is smart enough to be President, and that word itself is a nuanced one because neither Messrs. Huckabee or Bush are stupid, at least not in any usual sense. I don't believe Mr. Bush is thoughtful or curious, but that's not the same thing as dumb. It's clear from the New Yorker piece and other evidence that Mrs. Clinton is almost certainly a nerd, and while that may not seem like a complement at first blush, bear in mind that you're reading a blog written by someone who likes computers, science, history, role-playing games, anime, science fiction and fantasy. Someone whose idea of a good vacation includes going no farther than a neighborhood coffeeshop to see if he can make any progress on his vampire novel. (I'm not on vacation, but I restarted it this weekend, if you must know.) While I'm aware of Mrs. Clinton's opportunistic posturing against videogame violence, there's no way she wouldn't totally pwn her enemies at Halo if she did own an XBox. Search your feelings; you know it's true.

Yet, even with the Packer article, Mrs. Clinton can't close the deal with me. It's not enough to be a nerd, or secretly very nice. There's a lack of integrity, and a lack of inspiration. She's been in too long. I'll vote for her if she's the Dems' nominee, but not because I want to.

That missing piece is what I meant to write about, but I can't quite get there from here. I'm not sure I'll be able to at all. So, here's the piece about how I couldn't write the piece I wanted. And so much for writing anything else tonight. I give up. It's a quarter past eleven, and I think I'd like to watch a Samurai Jack episode before retiring to bed with a chapter of The Martian Chronicles. Because, you know, nerd.


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