The Cynic vs. the Radical: Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama

Posted: Apr 07, 2008 12:01 AM
The Cynic vs. the Radical: Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama

If you ever get the blues, just remember – it could always get worse. You could be forced to spend the week listening to the rhetoric of Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton. Judging from last week’s news reports, that alone would be plenty to send almost anyone spiraling into the abyss of depression.

Campaigning with Teresa Heinz Kerry last week, Michelle Obama had this to say about her husband’s pursuit of the nomination: “[I]n this ever-shifting, moving bar, Barack Obama will always be the underdog. No matter how much money he raises, no matter how many wins he pulls together, no matter how many delegates he accumulates; he is still the underdog. It’s the way it works.”

That’s the latest bon mot from a woman who has expressed pride in her country for the first time in her adult life. In Mrs. Obama’s view, her husband is unjustly condemned to perpetual underdog status – despite his clear lead in fundraising, in pledged and unpledged delegates, in the popular vote, and in high-profile endorsements. Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect anything more uplifting from Michelle Obama, who characterizes America as “just downright mean” and “a nation of struggling folks,” notwithstanding her (and her husband’s) elite educations, prestigious jobs, comfortable income and meteoric rise to political superstardom.

Hillary Clinton’s vision of America is no more inspiring. Last week, she repeated again the heartrending story of Trina Bachtell – a young woman who lost her baby and died herself simply because she couldn’t afford the $100 fee a heartless hospital supposedly demanded in order to treat her. Not too surprisingly, it turns out that the story wasn’t true – but the very fact that Hillary deemed it plausible enough to repeat is revealing. Her view of America and its circumstances is remarkably dreary, considering that she and her husband have risen from the middle class to enjoy stratospheric influence and prominence, along with an income that puts them in the ranks of the super-rich – $109 million just over the last eight years.

It must be demoralizing to live in the world these two Ivy-League-educated lawyers seem to occupy, where innocent citizens are eternally victimized by forces beyond their control – from the evil healthcare system to the presumably racist political and social structure. It will be an interesting insight into the nation’s psyche to learn how many voters ultimately subscribe to their pessimism about this country, its people and its potential.

But despite their similarities in tone, Mrs. Clinton’s and Mrs. Obama’s remarks seem to spring from different sources. Hillary Clinton’s false assertions about Trina Bachtell signal a hardened cynicism, where no “misstatement” is too shameless to employ in the almighty effort to win political power. Michelle Obama’s comments reflect a latent radicalism, a pervasive and seemingly immutable conviction about the inherent unfairness of the American people.

Taken together, the most recent Democrat First Lady and the woman most likely to be the next one present unappealing alternatives. Would voters prefer for America to be represented by a radical, who sincerely and deeply doubts the goodness of its people – or by a cynic, who’s willing to say anything as part of a scorched-earth strategy to lead it?

Talk about a profoundly depressing choice . . .

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