Live by the Biography, Die by the Biography
Like other conservatives, I’ve been amused by how Saints Bill and Hillary have transmogrified into untrustworthy and selfish snakes-in-the-grass in the eyes of so many of their former water-carriers. Along the way, we’ve learned that those who were once part of the media conspiracy arrayed against them in the ’90s are now taking their side against He Who Endures for Us All. But at least the bucket brigade has been consistent in one manner: in their world, traditional methods of assessing character weren’t applicable to their favored candidate (Bill) then–shady land deals, extramarital sex and plain ol’ lying–and they don’t count now. Just look at the reaction in the press and amongst the Obama flock to the questions asked in the recent debate.
It used to be that you took a measure of a person by looking at how they acted and with whom they associated. How else could you assess their judgment, prudence and character? But some began to think that it was an old fashioned way to judge people, especially if such close scrutiny brought up some, er, personal foibles that weren’t very attractive to particular candidates (Bill, again).
So what to do? Why, instead of worrying about how a candidate actually behaves and treats others–you know, all of that real world crap–how about defining character by the policy positions someone holds. Heck, makes sense. If you’re trying to tear down the religion and culture upon which the moral judgment (that ain’t currently working for you, anyway) is based, then why not try to define a new morality based on your new touchstone: politics. All you gotta do is check off the right boxes and you’re on your way.
But, this time around, that’s caused a problem for the Democrats. Because Clinton and Obama have checked so many of the same boxes this has been a primary campaign where the candidate’s nearly-identical political substance has been overshadowed by their personal styles and biographies. And it’s in the latter where, to the non-wonk set, the real difference lay.
To date, Obama has benefited from the comparison of biographies and styles, mostly because we all know (too much) about the Clintons. Obama didn’t have to do much to sully her with her own past; it was already known (if heretofore ignored back when she was one of the Elect). But finally, in an attempt to to get behind the Obama hagiography, an unexpected quarter of the media, ABC, decided to delve into some of his associations (Wright and Ayers) and comments (“bitter”, “cling to”). When you run a campaign based on biography and rhetoric, you had better be prepared to answer questions about both. He wasn’t and, despite the screams from the Disciples, this was all fair game and quite the norm. Just ask a Republican.