Of Better Angels And Lesser Demons

I suppose it was a forgone conclusion that I would never be supportive of Hillary Clinton.  Still, one of the arguments I have been making, both in my work, and in my nods towards the Clinton campaign, is that you can have disagreements with and outright oppose someone and still be respectful and constructive.

Given that when this primary is finished, John McCain will ultimately be the enemy no matter who the Democratic nominee turns out to be, I have struggled with my better angels and lesser demons to strike that right tone of being respectfully opposed to the Clinton campaign.

It’s been a difficult struggle.  As I’ve recounted before, there was a time when I could have supported her, where she displayed a sense of the candidate that I would have proudly gotten behind in her bid for the presidency.  But in this continuous battle with myself to not cross the line, I fear that the Clinton campaign has repeatedly tested that resolve.

I had went from being opposed to her candidacy only because of my support for another, to being opposed to her candidacy and her presidential bid based on its own lack of merit.  And still, because I knew that she could conceivably become my party’s nominee, I would constantly resolve to maintaining a tone of respectful disagreement and constructive criticism.

I’ve faltered in the past, and I recognize that I have engaged in long stretches where it would seem as though I was capable of little more than invective, this due to the follies of Clinton’s campaign and its highest level surrogates, but recently I rededicated myself to ease up, to continue to draw differences, but also to make a point of providing constructive solutions and explaining not just where I think Hillary went wrong, but what she could do to make things right.

I think a part of me has always held out that one day she would ditch the advice of her campaign team and for at least one brief moment show us the kind of leadership that makes her qualified to be this party’s nominee.

But as I’m sure most people do, I drew a line in the sand; a point of no return that, should Mrs. Clinton cross it, I could not expect my better angels to hold my lesser demons at bay any longer.  It was a definitive line for her to cross, but in truth it was a line analogous to my own; should Hillary Clinton succumb to her lesser demons, I would to my own.

As quite a few bloggers should be able to verify, for me that line was drawn at Jeremiah Wright.  For me, if the Clinton campaign chose to be a part of the pile on, I could not forgive that transgression.  Indeed, her campaign had already come precariously close to that line when it elected to use the Wright controversy to attempt to woo Super Delegates to her camp, but I ultimately clenched my jaw and let that pass.

But now that Hillary Clinton is forced to weather a terrible storm on her own, she has chosen to break a wise, week’s long silence on the subject, and became a part of the rabid pile on, no doubt to deflect attention away from the embarrassment that she suffered regarding the lie she told about the Bosnia story.  She went to the paper that once was a part of the conspiracy to implicate her and her husband in the death of Vince Foster, and she used it to pass judgement on Obama’s relationship with Rev. Wright.

Here I think it important to remark a great disparity between the way these two candidates have dealt with adversity.  For Obama, when his candidacy was dealt the most horrible of blows, he rose to the occasion and engaged America in an honest and challenging conversation.  Most call it a speech, but that does not do it justice, it was a discussion, and only the beginning of a discussion that, for better or worse, will continue on for some time.  Hillary, when faced with equal adversity, attempted to smear her candidate while defending herself with the lame excuse that she was suffering from not getting enough sleep.

As The New Republic’s Jason Zengerle aptly explains, it was not her words alone that are such a terrible transgression, but what is behind them, this low and sleazy attempt to escape her own woes by heaping upon the woes of a person who is still her colleague:

Now, I don’t think there’s anything that remarkable–much less offensive–about Hillary’s sentiments. I don’t agree with them, but I think she’s making a fair enough point. What’s notable is that she decided to make the point herself. It was only a week or so ago that the Clintonites were pushing the Wright story in private but were loath to say anything about it on the record. I think this is as sure a sign as any that they’re getting completely desperate. 

She does not even show the grace that former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee showed John McCain, as Oliver Willis briefly points out.  And even John McCain had the class to provide some defense for Obama when pressed about the issue by Sean Hannity.

Hillary Clinton’s lesser demons won out when even Republicans like John McCain and Mike Huckabee won their appeals to their better angels.  At every opportunity Hillary Clinton had to show that she could lead this party and do so with the sense of values that I as a Democrat hold dear, she has utterly failed.  Her continued presence in this campaign is not a benefit to Democrats, it is not illuminating, it only serves to further destroy a fellow Democrat while at the same time tarnish her own image beyond any hope of salvage.

I cannot, and I don’t think other Democrats can either, abide her tactics for they undermine our abilities to beat John McCain in the fall, and they shame us as a party.  So, she says, “You don’t choose your family, but you do choose which church you attend,” does she?  Well what church does Hillary Clinton attend?

Dr. Ron Chusid provides for us a revealing glimpse into Hillary Clinton’s high powered prayer group:

Everyone has a choice in who they associate with and if we are going to criticize Obama’s choice we should also look at who Hillary Clinton has chosen to affiliate with. Last September Mother Jones took a look at the choice Hillary Clinton made, reporting that “For 15 years, Hillary Clinton has been part of a secretive religious group that seeks to bring Jesus back to Capitol Hill.” They note who Clinton has associated with:

Through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as the Fellowship. Her collaborations with right-wingers such as Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) grow in part from that connection.

If you are concerned about who Obama has associated with, then also look at her association with Doug Coe, as well as who he associates with:

Coe’s friends include former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Reaganite Edwin Meese III, and ultraconservative Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.). Under Coe’s guidance, Meese has hosted weekly prayer breakfasts for politicians, businesspeople, and diplomats, and Pitts rose from obscurity to head the House Values Action Team, an off-the-record network of religious right groups and members of Congress created by Tom DeLay. The corresponding Senate Values Action Team is guided by another Coe protégé, Brownback, who also claims to have recruited King Abdullah of Jordan into a regular study of Jesus’ teachings.

This group is interested in pushing a conservative social agenda which Hillary Clinton has become a backer of:

The Fellowship isn’t out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.

This is in line with the Christian right’s long-term strategy. Francis Schaeffer, late guru of the movement, coined the term “cobelligerency” to describe the alliances evangelicals must forge with conservative Catholics. Colson, his most influential disciple, has refined the concept of cobelligerency to deal with less-than-pure politicians. In this application, conservatives sit pretty and wait for liberals looking for common ground to come to them. Clinton, Colson told us, “has a lot of history” to overcome, but he sees her making the right moves.

These days, Clinton has graduated from the political wives’ group into what may be Coe’s most elite cell, the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast. Though weighted Republican, the breakfast—regularly attended by about 40 members—is a bipartisan opportunity for politicians to burnish their reputations, giving Clinton the chance to profess her faith with men such as Brownback as well as the twin terrors of Oklahoma, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and, until recently, former Senator George Allen (R-Va.). Democrats in the group include Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who told us that the separation of church and state has gone too far; Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is also a regular.

Unlikely partnerships have become a Clinton trademark. Some are symbolic, such as her support for a ban on flag burning with Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and funding for research on the dangers of video games with Brownback and Santorum. But Clinton has also joined the gopon legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act; she didn’t back off even after Republican senators such as Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter pulled their names from the bill citing concerns that the measure would protect those refusing to perform key aspects of their jobs—say, pharmacists who won’t fill birth control prescriptions, or police officers who won’t guard abortion clinics.

Clinton has championed federal funding of faith-based social services, which she embraced years before George W. Bush did; Marci Hamilton, author of God vs. the Gavel, says that the Clintons’ approach to faith-based initiatives “set the stage for Bush.” Clinton has also long supported the Defense of Marriage Act, a measure that has become a purity test for any candidate wishing to avoid war with the Christian right.

Liberal rabbi Michael Lerner, whose “politics of meaning” Clinton made famous in a speech early in her White House tenure, sees the senator’s ambivalence as both more and less than calculated opportunism. He believes she has genuine sympathy for liberal causes—rights for women, gays, immigrants—but often will not follow through. “There is something in her that pushes her toward caring about others, as long as there’s no price to pay. But in politics, there is a price to pay.”

In politics, those who pay tribute to the powerful also reap rewards. When Ed Klein’s attack bio, The Truth About Hillary, came out in 2005, some of her most prominent defenders were Christian conservatives, among them Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler. “Christians,” he declared, “should repudiate this book and determine to take no pleasure in it.”

Clinton’s conservative social views have been noticed by others such as the Cato Institute:

The libertarian Cato Institute recently observed that Clinton is “adding the paternalistic agenda of the religious right to her old-fashioned liberal paternalism.” Clinton suggests as much herself in her 1996 book, It Takes a Village, where she writes approvingly of religious groups’ access to schools, lessons in Scripture, and “virtue” making a return to the classroom.

Then, as now, Clinton confounded secularists who recognize public faith only when it comes wrapped in a cornpone accent. Clinton speaks instead the language of nondenominationalism—a sober, eloquent appreciation of “values,” the importance of prayer, and “heart” convictions—which liberals, unfamiliar with the history of evangelical coalition building, mistake for a tidy, apolitical accommodation, a personal separation of church and state. Nor do skeptical voters looking for political opportunism recognize that, when Clinton seeks guidance among prayer partners such as Coe and Brownback, she is not so much triangulating—much as that may have become second nature—as honoring her convictions. In her own way, she is a true believer.

There are things to be concerned about with regards to who both Obama and Clinton have associated with. The difference is that Obama does not share in many of Wright’s views and has been a strong defender of separation of church and state. While Clinton does sometimes disagree with the members of the religious right which she associates with, primarily on abortion, Clinton’s public policy views are very much influenced by the religious right and she is an opponent of separation of church and state. With all these ties to conservatives and their views I might remind readers that Hillary Clinton was an old Goldwater Girl but that would be an insult to Barry Goldwater who opposed the influence of the religious right.

Not only does she have ties to it, but is at times motivated by this influential prayer group that pushes a socially conservative agenda.  That’s not very much in keeping with the precepts of the Democratic party, now is it?  It looks worse when you confront that with Obama’s ties to Wright, a relationship in which he denounced the controversial statements of the preacher, and it should be noted that the hit piece regarding Wright was grotesquely taken out of context.

Even through all of this, I still feel an obligation not just to point out where Clinton went wrong, but what she could have done that would have been right.  She could have maintained the vow of silence that her campaign has thus far adhered to regarding the Wright controversy.  If she was truly pressed on the issue, she could have shown her opponent the kind of simple grace that both Mike Huckabee and John McCain showed.  Regarding the Bosnia trip, at a bare minimum just being honest for once and admitting that she screwed up would have been a start.

I think I would have been wowed if she turned this into a debate about the impossible expectations that Americans have of their politicians to be Supermen and Superwomen, or to explain that hardcore battle experience is not necessary to be an effective and wise Commander in Chief.  It would have been a risk, but after watching Kerry lose in 2004 because he was so ill-disposed to doing the risky, because he was so afraid of putting his neck out there and saying the controversial and ultimately of showing true leadership, I want to see my candidate show that he or she is willing to do what is right over that which is easy.

But in the only true Commander in Chief test that any candidate can take prior to actually assuming office, displaying courage, integrity, and leadership, Hillary Clinton has failed completely.

This is the call to fellow Democrats that Hillary Clinton has earned no leniency, that the argument to protect both candidates does not stand because she is so complicit in destroying her opponent on her own.  With each passing day Clinton shows herself not to be a blessing to our party, but a tumor, one that should and must be excised promptly.

For all intents and purposes, the lesser demons have won.

More on this courtesy Memeorandum: Washington Wire, Top of the Ticket, Booman Tribune, TalkLeft, Commentary, Power Line, The Swamp, Hot Air, Weekly Standard, Don Surber, The Seminal, Marc Ambinder, Open Left, TPM Election Central, Spin Cycle, Boston Globe, The Liberal Journal, The Campaign Spot, Taylor Marsh, Prairie Pundit, On Call, American Spectator, Balloon Juice, Roger L. Simon, QandO, Donklephant, Political Punch, Gateway Pundit, Michelle Malkin, The Page, The Daily Dish, and The Carpetbagger Report.

13 Responses to “Of Better Angels And Lesser Demons”

  1. Albert Johnson Jr says:

    Hillary Clinton is truly a nasty piece of work. Even if one does not consider the supposedly inflammatory nature of the Wright sermons, she took an opportunity to promote healing or at least thought provoking discussion, and instead parroted a line that even the conservative nominee and the man he defeated has abandoned.

    I have no doubt Hillary would have left her church and the place that introduced her to Jesus because it is abundantly clear that there is no belief, no ethic, no moral, or important relationship she would not gladly sacrifice in order to further her own naked ambition. However, she should get that choice. These are the words of her pastor in the white house for 8 years Dean J Snyder the Senior Minister of the Foundry United Methodist church. The Clintons church while they were in the white house.

    A STATEMENT CONCERNING THE REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT

    The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is an outstanding church leader
    whom I have heard speak a number of times. He has served for
    decades as a profound voice for justice and inclusion in our society.
    He has been a vocal critic of the racism, sexism and homophobia
    which still tarnish the American dream. To evaluate his dynamic
    ministry on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave
    injustice to Dr. Wright, the members of his congregation, and the
    African-American church which has been the spiritual refuge of a
    people that has suffered from discrimination, disadvantage, and
    violence. Dr. Wright, a member of an integrated denomination, has
    been an agent of racial reconciliation while proclaiming perceptions
    and truths uncomfortable for some white people to hear. Those of us
    who are white Americans would do well to listen carefully to Dr.
    Wright rather than to use a few of his quotes to polarize. This is a
    critical time in America’s history as we seek to repent of our racism.
    No matter which candidates prevail, let us use this time to listen again
    to one another and not to distort one another’s truth.

    Over 2 million Americans have seen the full context of the Rev. Wright’s sermon on YouTube. So, when Hillary says it’s out there for people to make up their minds I hope they truly do.

    Hillary is a political succubus. She will suck the energy and will from this party until we are broken and defeated.

    We have to defeat this person.

  2. Wow… okay, do you have a link for that statement?

    I’m serious, that’s good stuff.

    As for Hillary being a succubus… It gets harder to disagree with that every day.

  3. I just finished watching the Clinton comments and was coming in to write a screed daming her and calling this ridiculous truce to an end. Screw her, screw the truce and screw Bill. This knee-capping, as it is being called, has guaranteed I will NOT vote for her is she to find a way to steal this nomination.

  4. Cernig says:

    And yes, it’s authentic. I got it from the foundry ministy website frontpage (foundryumc.org).

    Check out the Rev’s Easter Sunday Sermon too.

    “I was feeling depressed about the racial tension in America this past week. At the request of a member, I made a statement this week about the attention the media was giving to some comments by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom I have heard speak a number of times. The statement is available on our website and copies are available in our office. I was feeling sort of depressed. When are we ever going to be able to get past the racial divisions that run so deep in the American psyche?

    Then suddenly this weekend I moved from fear to joy. I realized that the tension we are experiencing is because the rules are changing. What we are experiencing is the shock of resurrection which always causes within us fear and great joy all mixed up together.

    I was the pastor of a primarily African-American congregation for several years in the 1980’s. When I say primarily African-American I mean all but two people in the congregation were African-American. One of the two who was not African-American was married to me.

    It was the most fearful and joyous experience of my life. Every day we had to choose between fear and joy.

    I knew it was a sacrifice for a congregation of African-Americans of the generation who had grown up before and during the civil rights movement to have a white pastor.

    For African-Americans, church in those days was where you could go to say what you really thought and what you really felt without white people looking over your shoulder disapprovingly. Church was something –sometimes the only thing – that belonged to you, that you got to run. Church was where you could let your guard down.

    Suddenly now you’ve got a white pastor. He is in some ways an intruder; yet, you’ve got to treat him well because there is no higher value among a people who know what is like to be put out than hospitality.

    It was frightening for me, too. I was always nervous I would say or do something offensive. There are all sorts of things white people do that are offensive and we have no idea. I was careful and guarded, and members of the congregation were careful and cautious around me.

    We eventually figured out how to be church together. But every day we had to choose between fear and joy.

    One turning point was when three men in the congregation invited me to go with them to a men’s prayer breakfast at a neighboring church. We had a fine breakfast. As was often the case in those days, I was the only white person in the room. Then it was time for the speaker.

    The speaker spoke on the superiority of the black race over the white race. He quoted scientific studies that proved, he claimed, that the brains of black people are, on average, larger and more developed than the brains of white people. It was a mirror image of the foolish pseudo-science white people had used for centuries to supposedly prove they were superior to black people. A mirror image.

    I could tell that the three men who had invited me to the breakfast were mortified, just absolutely mortified. They sat as stiff as if they were corpses.

    One of the men had driven us there. After breakfast and the speech, we got in his car. The ride back began in a very uncomfortable silence. Nobody knew what to say. Finally I decided I had to say something to break the ice. So this is what I said: “He’s not all wrong, you know? Every black person I have known,” I said, “has had a more developed brain than my white brother-in-law.”

    Every day we had to choose between fear and joy. The rules were changing and every day we had to choose between fear and joy.

    We made it – that congregation and I. It was scary but we learned we weren’t so fragile that we would shatter if we heard or experienced something uncomfortable. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. We could take risks with each other. And eventually there were actually times when we almost forgot the shades of our skin. Great joy. ”

    Very cool.

    Regards, C

  5. Mike: Strange as it may seem, there is still a chance that I may vote for her, if only to help prevent McCain from taking the White House, but I will not lift a finger to help her. Or, more accurately, I won’t drop fingers on keys to help her as it turns out.

    C: Thanks. This is it. I’ve pretty much gotten tired of every time something comes up hoping that Hillary will do the right thing. I’ve pretty much lost patience with saying every few weeks, “okay, this is the new line she can’t cross.”

    It’s done.

  6. That is very cool.

    Anyway, I’m going to start working on this stuff tomorrow. I only have about an hour before I have to start doing the last bit of work I have to do before heading home.

    Again, thanks for this stuff. I think I already have a headline.

  7. terry says:

    Hillary says Rev. Wright wouldn’t be her pastor.

    Well, you know what, if I had a husband who humiliated me in front of the entire country by carrying on with a twit of an intern while in the White House…

    He wouldn’t be my husband anymore.

  8. Wow… and there it is.

  9. terry says:

    Did I actually say that out loud…

    :-)

  10. yes… yes you did. But it’s okay, no judging. There’s a lot of disappointment right now in Hillary. Let it out. You’re good.

  11. I am just glad that I was not drinking anything when I got to Terry’s comment… :) Nice find on the sermon and statement Albert and Cernig.

  12. No kidding. I thought I was going to pee my pants; swear to God.

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