Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Secret Hillary

Matt Yglesias watches the secret Hillary tapes and reads the secret Hillary transcripts and ends up thinking that the secret Hillary is exactly like the public Hillary:
At both the 1992 and 2008 conventions, Bill Clinton and Obama both proudly claimed the mantle of political outsiders and promised to clean up the mess in Washington. Fundamentally, that’s what voters want to hear. They have little respect for politicians in general and congress in particular, and they want to hear that bringing a new person in will change everything and fix everything.

Clinton, precisely because of her vast experience in government, is completely non-credible as a bringer of drastic change and systemic reform. She is, quite clearly, a creature of the system who is comfortable with it and intends to work within it. That is the “secret” revealed by every hacked email and every leaked speech, and it is also the completely obvious fact of the matter that is readily apparent to anyone who takes an even cursory look at her biography. It’s exactly what her allies are bragging about when they talk about how qualified she is.

Amidst all the other remarkable aspects of the 2016 campaign, this is a thread that tends to get lost but Clinton is asking the American people to do something they almost never do — admit that the American political system fundamentally is what it is, and so you might as well elect someone who’s good at operating it in rather dream of someone who’s going to show up and clean up the mess in Washington. Fundamentally, the only message of the secret speeches is that Clinton is exactly who we thought she was — someone who’s been around a long time, someone who knows a lot of stuff, someone who’s cozy with the established players, and someone who doesn’t really embrace good government pieties.

You can make of this what you will — I personally find it kind of charming but most Americans seem not to — but like it or not it’s worth admitting to yourself that peeling back further layers of the onion and delving into deeper realms of secrecy isn’t going to teach us much of anything new about her.
Some people seem offended by the line, taken from one of Hillary's Goldman Sachs speeches, that "you have to have a public position and a private position." But she was talking about budget negotiations with Congress, and when it comes to that sort of maneuvering anyone who doesn't have separate public and private positions is a plain fool.

People want governing to be a moral exercise –"nothing but goodness and common sense," as Jonathan Swift put it – but generally it is not. Generally it is a set of technical and communication skills that often skirt along the borders of outright immorality. It truly is baffling, the way Americans fall every four years for someone who claims to be an outsider coming to clean up Washington. Because nobody who isn't steeped in Washington's arcane ways would even know where to start.

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