The politics of resentment

John Podhoretz:

SEN. Hillary Clinton said over the weekend that "I really resent" the fact American troops may be tied up in Iraq in January 2009 - when she hopes to be president of the United States.

"I am going to level with you," she said. "The president has said this is going to be left to his successor. I think it is the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it."

That's actually an interesting, even thought-provoking, formulation. It's rare to hear questions about difficult policies discussed in terms of personal resentments, but perhaps this is one of the areas where Hillary Clinton will blaze a new presidential trail.

Imagine, for example, that President Bush had given a speech a few days after 9/11 declaring he really resented the fact that Bill Clinton didn't kill Osama bin Laden before Bush became president.

Or that President Bill Clinton, in the wake of the slaughter of 18 American servicemen in Somalia in 1993, informed Americans about his real resentment of George Bush the Elder, who sent those servicemen into Somalia at the tail end of his administration.

Really Resenting doesn't have to begin and end with foreign policy and military matters. President George Bush the Elder could have made public his profound resentment at the consequences of the Reagan tax-reform bill on the real-estate market, whose crumbling value in the late 1980s led to the recession that helped do Bush the Elder in.

For that matter, Ronald Reagan could have spent 1982 expressing resentment at the recession caused by the necessity of choking off the stagflation of the Carter years. And on it goes.

The focus groups who responded to the phrase used by Sen. Clinton probably were not presented with the logic of Podhoretz's argument. That is one of the problems with relying on such groups in coming up with phrases for speeches. It appears that Sen. Clinton needs a few devil's advocates on her staff to point out the weakness of her arguments and remind her when she is giving girlie girl arguments. What is really demonstrated by this argument is that Clinton had no core belief when she voted for the war that was supported by the public and she has none now that the war is unpopular and she might have to deal with it.


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