Greenwald expresses well the underlying reasons for my negative feelings about Hillary's candidacy :
...in my view, Howard Dean's 2004 candidacy prompted such passion and excitement not because of any specific policy plans or even views on issues which he advocated (even including Iraq). Far more important was the fact that he looked, sounded and smelled like (and I think actually was) an insurgent candidate -- someone who emerged outside of our corroded Beltway system and seemed legitimately opposed to it, even hostile towards and disgusted by it.
He sounded like an American citizen who was running in opposition to the prevailing Beltway political culture and its rancid operating procedures, not as someone who was a by-product of it eager to prevail within it by adhering to its rules. That was the real "substance" of Dean's campaign, what distinguished it and made it interesting.
It's for that reason that the only presidential candidate, at least among the (credible) Democrats, who seems truly odious is Hillary Clinton, and that is true not so much because of her, but because of the people with whom she has chosen to surround herself and who will run our government should she be elected. To understand why that is so, just read Matt Stoller's superb and important story about how the Clintonistas operate.
The people who are attached to the Clinton campaign and who will be swept back into power with her -- the Terry McAulliffes and Mike McCurrys and Howard Wolfsons and Chris Lehanes and James Carvilles -- are pure embodiments of the whole corrupt and principle-less and worthless edifice. They're the people who, both when they were in power and throughout the Bush presidency, sleazily fed at the trough and they believe in nothing. Cheap and deceitful cynicism is the nourishment which sustains them and, most of all, they love the Beltway power system and can't wait to resume their place in it -- fully preserved and unchanged.
If Hillary's the nominee, I'll vote for her. As cynical as the mindset is that lies behind her campaign, I would argue that it is not as dangerous as the rightist mentality that has taken over the GOP in the last twenty five years.
But I think those of us who are trying to redefine a vital, integrated, radical center have to ask ourselves what is really going on in the mindset of most sane Americans when they judge a particular candidate as presidential or unpresidential. And we have to own up how we are manipulated by precisely this cynical, power infatuated Beltway agenda which rejects anybody who will not sell out and play the game by its rules. We all seem to accept the Beltway definition of reality as if it's the only possibility. We do it because people who have power and resources to shape public opinion use it effectively to construct a narrative that defines "normal" reality, and other more reality-based narratives are not supported by enough power and money to present a plausible alternative.
The Beltway folks rejected Gore and embraced Bush, and I will admit to being influenced by the incessant negative portrayals of Gore and only later came to wonder why the Beltway courtiers were giving a man by far his inferior a free pass. I couldn't vote for Bush because of his party's history. He struck me as a decent guy who was out of his depth, but at the beginning I was open to Bush's proving himself a "compassionate conservative" and a "uniter."
In other words I was sucked in by power's construction of reality to the degree that I was even willing to give Bush a chance. I'll never do that again, because I'm much clearer now than I was then that individuals don't matter as much as the power base that supports them. This power base should never be given a fair hearing by any sane American, because its agenda is clear, and whatever justifications it might give for its agenda, they have nothing to do with their real motivations, which is to accrue more wealth and power at everyone else's expense. Their only goal in appearing reasonable is to neutralize opposition.
But back in 2000, while I wasn't happy about Bush's election, I wasn't as upset about it as I was when he won in '04. In 2000 I expected at worst politics as usual, but in the runup to the war it became clear that we were getting something far worse. And that's when my outrage began. It astonished me how easy it was for the Beltway types to manipulate public opinion. It astonished me how dissent about the war was made to look insane, and how no credible opposition was able to form against it.
Wasn't that Howard Dean's biggest public perception problem? His criticism of the war was deemed radical and leftist. In retrospect it looks like common sense. What is it about our political culture that a centrist, common-sense perspective like Dean's is made out to be outer-fringe insane. If outrage is what defines you as insane, and being sane was accepting the Republican agenda and its m.o. for implementing it, then up is down and black is white. Insanity, in fact, is conscious or unconscious complicity in the GOP program. And insanity means taking what you hear from the Beltway courtiers as defining normal reality.
In 2004, the Beltway courtiers rejected Howard Dean, and public opinion followed. He wasn't presidential enough. A soulless stiff like Kerry and callow ignoramus like Bush, however, were deemed presidential. It's almost as if the Beltway automatically rejects anybody who shows he has a soul, and that automatically meant disqualification for Gore and Dean, and it probably means trouble for Obama. We'll see--his charm may exempt him. But it also explains its ready acceptance of Hillary's machine. The people who run it play a game the Beltway courtiers understand. I've been reading Somerby's defense of Hillary, but I don't buy it. She's too complicit in this corrupting power system, and I feel almost as negatively about the faction she represents within the Democratic Party as I do the Republicans as a whole.
I have argued here that the Republican Party has delegitimated itself, and every candidate that it puts forward for national office should be rejected no matter how good the individual candidate might be. Again, it's not about the individual; it's about the power system behind the individual. And we've learned enough about that power system to know that it must be thoroughly repudiated. But the same holds true for the Democrats. It's not about liking or disliking Hillary. It's not a popularity contest. It's a question of the power network and political mentality that stands behind and supports her. We need something far better than what she brings with her. And I'll support anybody who seems to have a chance to bring it.
Sunday Update: I don't want to appear to be an amanuensis for Glen Greenwald, but his post today connects to this idea about what the GOP thinks as "normal"-- that it's ok for presidents to arbitrarily arrest and lock up American citizens without review or trial. It's astonishing how non-chalant Giuliani and Romney are about it:
And the power that Guiliani is dreaming of exercising (but don't worry - only "infrequently"), and the power which Romney thinks must be subject to a grand debate among lawyers before he decides whether he has it, was found by the Supreme Court just three years ago in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld -- after George Bush exercised that power against American citizens, with hardly a peep of protest -- to be in violation of the most basic Constitutional guarantees. Explained the Hamdi majority, stating the bleeding obvious:
It would turn our system of checks and balances on its head to suggest that a citizen could not make his way to court with a challenge to the factual basis for his detention by his government, simply because the Executive opposes making available such a challenge. Absent suspension of the writ by Congress, a citizen detained as an enemy combatant is entitled to this process.
And the Court's left-wing terrorist-lover, Antonin Scalia, was joined by John Paul Stevens in dissenting on the ground that the opinion did not go far enough in proclaiming just how repugnant such a power is to our basic Constitutional framework, and Scalia explained: "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive."
Yet Rudy Guiliani expressly does not believe in this "very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system." And Mitt Romney has to convene a team of lawyers before he can decide whether he does. And Romesh Ponnuru can pass along these views as though they are the most unremarkable things in the world, nothing that warrants comment, just the latest position of the Republican candidates, like whether they believe in adjustments to the capital gains tax or employer mandates (though Ponnuru did note, without specifying the reasons, that Cato's "Crane says he was disappointed with Romney's answer to his question the other night"). If you don't mind going throught the day pass hassle at Salon, read the whole post.
I am still in a state of shock that habeas corpus was so blithely done away with in the passage of the Military Commissions Act. You have to wonder if these guys in Washington have any concept of the consequences of what they are enacting into law.