Friends Don't Let Friends Work for Hillary

While I'm happy for Peter, I would be insulted at the idea that the substantive differences that I (and many others) have with Hillary can be resolved through some sort of.
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Or do they? Peter Daou is an extremely talented guy and a fine human being. On a personal level, I wish him all the best in his new position as Hillary Clinton's netroots consultant. On a political level, I feel obliged to do my best to ensure that he doesn't succeed. Politics is politics, and friendship is friendship. Recent history notwithstanding, I'm hoping they can co-exist.

Peter and I have never met, but he was an early supporter of my blogging and linked to me when few else would. He helped get me started in this racket -- a karmic debt he may have to answer for someday. And his posts on what he calls the 'triangle' -- politicians, old media, netroots -- are among the most brilliant and incisive I've ever read.

Marty Kaplan describes Peter's new job this way:

"... help (Hillary) compensate for the negatives that tag her online profile (starting with her Iraq stand, and not ending with her flag-burning triangulation) and accentuate her positives (e.g., her new passion for net neutrality) ... Daou might be able to coax the online community into making this case: the standard for supporting a candidate shouldn't be agreement on everything (after all, that's the interest-group pander bear that's defeated Democrats for a generation), but rather a broad agreement on values, competence, independence and leadership ..."

While I'm happy for Peter -- she's not the anti-Christ, for God's sake! -- I would be insulted at the idea that the substantive differences that I (and many others) have with Hillary can be resolved through some sort of outreach program. This member of the "online community" is not going to be persuaded by some "Internet game plan" that her stand on Iraq, and defense issues in general, is anything but a) unprincipled, and b) poor political strategy.

I sensed a split in the online progressive community some time ago. On one side of the divide are the Democratic Party activists, who tend to emphasize party unity and success above all. Many of them (though by no means all) are actively pursuing careers in the party, including campaign consultancies. On the other side are issues-driven activists who are motivated by core concerns, chief among them opposition to the war in Iraq.

While I consider the two camps distinct, they share many goals and interests. If properly handled, they should remain allies on many campaigns and issues -- as well as friends.

If Kos and Armstrong support Mark Warner, whose position on Iraq I find indistinguishable from Hillary's, then in my view they're in the camp of "party activists." They'll work for Democrats across a wide spectrum of what's come to be described, a little too pejoratively, as "ideology."

I would argue that the "Party" camp tends to circumvent "ideological issues" with a kind of circular logic about the blogosphere itself: "If Democrat X pays attention to us, the 'netroots,' that proves ipso facto that they're visionary enough to deserve our support."

(That is, provided that "x ≠ Lieberman." There are some lines no blogger will cross, apparently.)

I'm pretty much in the other camp, with Billmon.

The only difference? I've been a public policy consultant, and might conceivably work for a politician or government agency again -- but I'm not out there looking for work in that area and have no plans to do so.

In any case, I would never work for a politician unless we agreed with each other on a range of core issues. I'm sure that Peter, Kos, and Armstrong feel the same way. (Kos, for his part, has said as much.) They therefore must view Clinton, and the war issue, very differently than I.

Clinton was apparently invited to YearlyKos. Warner has remained a cipher on the Iraq issue so far, seemingly by calculation. But "calculation" is not called for from anyone who hopes to lead the Democrats someday.

My position on the Democratic Party is this: I want most of its candidates to win. But most of all, I want to wrestle it away from those politicians who I believe are acting with 'expediency' on critical issues like Iraq. Hillary's stand on privacy rights is excellent, but to me it looks like a calculated move on a relatively marginal issue.

I've said that I consider much of her recent political life to be ill-considered, both tactically and ethically.

Ethics first: I think the idea that she can convince America she's "tough on defense" by doing what she's doing is stunningly naïve, the fruit of too much incestuous brainstorming. I've also said that she's turning most of her party's base into "Sistah Souljah." That marginalizes reasonable points of view, and helps push our political discourse even further to the right.

I believe Hillary and the other triangulating Dems are making a huge mistake, employing a 'worst of both worlds' strategy that will alienate their base and fail to persuade others (of anything, that is, except the notion that they place politics over principle.)

Most importantly -- even if I'm wrong and her strategy works for her, I think she's making the world a more dangerous place in order to pursue her own ambition. That's not the kind of thing I'll easily "forgive and forget," and it's not an "outreach problem." I don't see how a "netroots strategy" can turn out to be more than just another attempt to emphasize tactics over principle.

Iraq, and our national security in general, is an issue that calls for "profiles in courage" in these troubled times. That means setting personal ambition aside for the public good, if that's what it takes. Other issues weigh heavily in this category, too, including her stands on the bankruptcy bill and free trade.

I can't accept Hillary's actions to date in these areas. Some of my friends clearly think otherwise.

Yet, despite the fact that some of these bloggers and I may not be on the same page, I support them as individuals and wish them well. Bloggers aren't epiphytes. They can't survive on the rarefied air of online political discourse alone.

And speaking of air ... while I think Kos' "oxygen" email was perfectly ethical (he asked other bloggers to ignore the Armstrong scandal story to "starve it of oxygen"), I think it was a big tactical mistake. I think two of his chief attackers are, respectively, a fraud and a bigot. I also think the blogosphere's defenses against these attacks haven't been handled very well.

Just to put all my cards on the table -- I think some of Kos' supporters have gone way over the top in defending him, too, and that he would be well advised to address this behavior -- for his own sake as well as the "blogosphere's." (As for Armstrong's astrology bent, I would remind his critics that Ronald Reagan used astrology to make Presidential decisions. I doubt any of Armstrong's clients have been forced to change their political strategy because the moon is in the seventh house.)

"Moderate Democrats" can always have conversion experiences, and Hillary may find herself on the road to Damascus between now and 2008. I'll stay open to that, for the sake of the country. Barring that unlikely eventuality, however, the position that people like me will be taking on Hillary (as we struggle to end this destructive and foolish war and ensure there isn't another in Iran):

If you're not here for us when we need you, we won't be there for you when you need us. Period.

Or, to be even more explicit: As things stand now, if Hillary's the Democratic candidate for President in 2008 I won't even vote for her. It will be the first time in 35 years that I haven't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. And I'll urge others to do the same, in the belief that this "triangulation" wing of the party needs to be starved of power until it fades away.

I think it's safe to say that, for the moment at least, Peter Daou and I won't be seeing eye to eye on many issues. Yet I would still like to consider him a friend.

Is that possible, with all we're hearing about the "rage" and "fascism" in the blogosphere? Here's hoping that it is. I'm just a hotheaded "ideological purist," but I'm willing to give it a shot -- for the sake of what's best for all of us, and in the name of friendship.

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