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Little to like in Hillary or Mitt

Andrew Nesi | Thursday, January 24, 2008

If Hillary had left Bill when he didn’t have sexual relations with that woman, I could have suggested a pretty good husband.

Back in 1998, he was 51 years young, wealthy, and good-looking. He was a politically ambitious liberal. He and Hillary would have made great bedfellows.

Who is contestant number one? Willard Mitt Romney.

Of course, since 1998, a few things have changed.

Today, Hillary and Mitt couldn’t be much farther apart. While Hillary whines about the “Republican attack machine,” Romney invokes “HillaryCare” as shorthand for the big-government universal health care plan that he loathes. But – at least, in political terms – Romney and Clinton would still look pretty good together.

After all, both would do just about anything to become president of the United States. And both are fighting back challenges from maverick, anti-establishment candidates with terrifyingly similar, dishonest tactical maneuvering.

It’s pretty easy to get the impression that Mitt just continues to trot out whatever message he believes is most politically expedient at the time.

In Michigan, Romney sounded almost Edwards-ian as he asserted, “I’m going to fight for every single job. I’m going to rebuild the industry. I’m going to take burdens off the back of the auto industry.”

Please. As Romney asserted that he would “fight for every single job,” he blamed only higher emissions standards for the decrease in jobs rather than acknowledge that the free trade he so ardently supports might play a role.

In Florida, meanwhile, Romney is running an ad in Spanish, which includes a laughable “Soy Mitt Romney, y apruebo este mensaje.” Romney’s efforts to appeal to the Latino community would be admirable – if he hadn’t also repeatedly appealed to the anti-illegal immigration wing of the Republican party by emphasizing his desire to establish the United States as an English-only country.

Most prominently, Mitt has become a member of the Christian Coalition. 1990s-Mitt was – to use his words – “effectively pro-choice.” 2008-Mitt bemoans his de facto pro-choiceness as “the biggest mistake” he’s “ever made.” While 1990s-Mitt asserted that “as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gays and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than” Sen. Ted Kennedy, 2008-Mitt spends little time talking about the importance of gay rights. Except, of course, when he’s speaking of the importance of limiting them to protect “traditional” marriage.

Does anybody doubt that Mitt would say anything and twist any rhetoric to be president of the United States?

But Mitt’s not alone. Consider the Hillary campaign’s maneuvering in the last month: While apologizing for the invocation of “teenage drug use” by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton’s chief strategist Mark Penn managed to up the ante by reminding voters that the drug in question was cocaine.

Earlier this month, meanwhile, Clinton called Barack Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war a “fairy tale”- even though a popular YouTube video from 2002 shows the then-state senator warning the country not to give the president a “carte blanche” and trumpeting increased inspections instead of war.

Even her emotions seem disingenuous and calculated. She’s become notorious (thanks, of course, to Jon Stewart and YouTube) for an overdone laugh that she uses to get out of tough questions. And some – though not all – insist that her near-crying earlier this month was a calculated maneuver to appear more human. The very fact that that so many assumed she was being disingenuous suggests that she’s gained a reputation for embracing Romney-like calculative-ness.

Does anybody doubt that Hillary would do anything to be president of the United States?

In their rhetoric, Hillary stands for nothing and Mitt stands for everything. The Clinton campaign is like a high school cheerleader, seeming to revel in the tactical nastiness of a campaign – she called it “the fun part” at a debate earlier this year. If Hillary’s the cheerleader, Mitt is the insecure kid who’ll do anything to seem cool. He revels in being liked, no matter what he needs to say.

Together, they reflect the worst in American politics.

On Tuesday, Sen. Obama observed, “If you get the kind of looseness with the facts that Senator Clinton’s displayed and you’re willing to say anything to get a political or tactical advantage – that erodes people’s trust in government.

“It makes them cynical. It’s part of the perpetual campaign that is how Washington all too often operates these days and it keeps us from solving problems.”

Therein lies the problem with a Clinton candidacy. People are already conscious of Hillary as a do-or-say-anything tactician – her ideas are, by and large, dismissed with vitriolic personal vilification. The contentious primary has again revealed the Clinton penchant for shameless twisting of facts and phrases. It’s not, as some would have you believe, her experience that keeps her from being an effective candidate. It’s her reputation – long recognized by Republicans, and increasingly by Democrats. She hardly stands a chance.

Unless, of course, her opponent is Mitt Romney.

Then we all lose.

Andrew Nesi is a junior American Studies major from Fairfield, Conn. He drank an entire two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi – straight – to prepare to write this column. He encourages you to contact him at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.