2008 Conversations About Presidential Politics I’ve Had Recently
posted by December 10 at 8:40 AMon
The guy I lift weights with has been an Obama guy since the beginning but ever since Gore failed to do what my imagination had in mind I’ve been a Hillary guy. “Hillary—I just feel like—I dunno—she wants it too badly,” the guy I lift weights with said a couple weeks ago, and I said, “But don’t you want someone who wants it?” And he would say, “She just so establishment, she’s by the book, she’s too aggressive, she’s annoying.” And I would say, “Don’t you want someone who’s aggressive and annoying and who know knows the book inside and out—isn’t that the person you want leading your team, your country?” Yesterday, we were lifting weights and scratching our heads over whether it was going to be Clinton or Obama, over what the Oprah Effect was going to be, over who would be more beatable in a general election. We were doing the bench press. He was struggling with some weight and I said, “If you can do five of these Obama wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
The two guys who run an arts organization in the wilderness are Edwards guys, they said a couple weeks ago over dinner—but, failing Edwards, they’re Obama guys, and the fourth person at the table, a Stranger colleague who doesn’t write about politics, said he was an Obama guy too, citing race as the fundamental unaddressed issue of inequality in America, more fundamental and unaddressed than gender inequality.
The English novelist I saw at a party over the weekend said, when I asked him who was going to win the Democratic nomination, “Who do I want to win?” I said, “No, who is it going to be?” and he said, “Well, that’s a very different question,” and after a pause: “Obama.” And then I asked him who he wanted it to be and he said: “Obama.” This is someone who was rightly and diametrically opposed to the Iraq War from the very beginning. Then he mentioned Maureen Dowd, and he allowed that Maureen Dowd is/can be annoying, but that she had a great line in the paper the other day, something to the effect that we usually look for father figures in presidents but with Obama this is reversed: it is more like he’s seen as an intensely gifted child whom we are rooting for and hoping doesn’t fuck up. Said novelist acknowledged that Obama is terrible in the debates—actually, in any situation where he isn’t the only person onstage—and it was pointed out that George W. Bush had been terrible in debates too. Then we talked about the fact that Giuliani’s foreign policy adviors include Norman Podhoretz, who wants to go nuclear on Iran, and the way that everyone who isn’t Clinton or Obama seems to be auditioning for Vice President, and the Wolfowitz-like simplicity/fatuousness of Biden’s ideas about partioning Iraq.
Also at this party was another writer of books, a woman, who writes books about historical figures of the Middle East, who brought up, the moment we started talking, Erica C. Barnett’s piece “about whether having a vagina means voting for Hillary—that’s exactly the way to put it,” she said. And then she said she likes Hillary and lamented how people talk about her. “Especially other women. The nastiest things I hear said are said by women.”
My little brother—20 years old, lives in California—is a Clinton guy. I asked him why and he said, “Because she’s a Democrat.” I said Obama’s a Democrat too, and he said, “Because I feel like Hillary has some of her husband in her. I think Bill Clinton’s the best president we ever had.” While this statement is certifiably insane—Lincoln’s grim face floats up over these words as I type them—I did beam with pride at someone biologically related to me earnestly pronouncing Clinton the best president we ever had. (Everyone else in my family—literally: both parents, my stepmother, my other two brothers, all three grandparents, all four uncles, both aunts, all the countless cousins—is a vigorous waver of the Bush flag.) Then my brother changed the subject to invite me to a rave in downtown Los Angeles over New Year’s, which I declined.
A friend who lives in New York and was in town on business last night and said that he’s a Clinton guy every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and an Obama guy on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. This seemed like the most articulate distillation of my current position. I forgot to ask what he is on Sundays.